My best friend from high school called me last week. She’d decided to cut through my old neighborhood in my hometown, take a look at the house I and my family called home for nine years. Certain she had just missed it, she drove around the block and came back. She remembered who lived where in all the other houses, trying to get her bearings. But, the house where we’d spent so much time together was no longer there.
In its place sat an empty lot. The city had purchased it from the last owner in October 2011 and tore it down as part of the flood mitigation assistance program. Funny, we never had issues with flooding when we lived there.
Newly planted trees stood where the house once was. The swimming pool where I’d swim until my lips were blue and my skin pruny, filled in. The rope swing hanging from a tree where I’d swing out over the creek and drop in, a distant memory. And the dock where my grandfather and I would sit and fish, pulling in catfish no bigger than my foot, gone.
I moved into that house in 1974 when I was eleven. My parents built it – the first new home we’d ever lived in. I even got to pick out the paint and carpet for my bedroom, a big deal at the time. I lived there until the age of nineteen, when at that tender age, I married my first husband and moved to Georgia.
It’s disconcerting to think the home where I spent my adolescence is gone, wiped clean from the face of the earth. Not a fragment of concrete, not a single brick, not a fencepost anywhere to be seen. The only things still standing from my past are the trees, taller now, fuller.
The ghost of that house holds so many memories – good and bad. All the milestones, from Junior High to High School to adulthood. My sweet sixteen surprise party. My high school graduation. My proms.
I dressed for all three proms in my lavender-painted bedroom with its white French Provincial furniture, my room filled with the typical memorabilia of a teenage girl, from goofy photos of friends to high school football programs; from dried prom corsages to pointe shoes, Styx posters to my Rob Lowe poster (I had such a crush on him). I curled up on that bed and secretly read my first romance novel, Shanna, the one that kicked off my life-long love of romance novels and kindled my desire to write. That’s me, Christmas 1974, with my shiny new red bike.
Memories of all the boyfriends — the break-ups, the reconciliations, the heart aches, the euphoria. All those important firsts. My first kiss. My first love. My first car. The death of my beloved grandfather – the first person whose death I understood and truly mourned. The birth of my nephews. My first pet, a dog named Pepper, was buried in that backyard, beneath a shade tree on the banks of the creek.
A few years ago, I drove through my old neighborhood when I attended that same friend’s daughter’s wedding. The house still stood, although the privacy fence was gone, and the exterior paint different. Had I known then it would later be demolished, I would have stopped, taken pictures, strolled down memory lane. It’s sad, really. Like grieving a friend that you lost touch with but with whom you always meant to reconnect.
Both my parents are gone now, as are their parents. And while I still have my older sister, she never lived in that house, and understandably doesn’t have the same connection to it that I did. The only person left to share those memories with is my best friend. So, Susan, if you’re reading this, stock up on the wine, pull out those old photos, and let’s reminisce.
How about your childhood home? Is it still there? Do your parents still own it?
Note: I’m out of the country, but if you leave a comment, I promise to respond as soon as I return. Thanks for stopping by.