Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Not Just Any House

It’s interesting the way the universe works. When I was 18, I couldn’t run fast enough away from my hometown—the way things always stayed the same, doing the same thing with the same people over and over and over, driving the same roads in the same cars—it was simply stagnating. So I went away to college (Rock Chalk!) and then moved out to the West Coast—Northern California first, then Southern California. I worked, explored, lived, loved—it was an adventure I will treasure my whole life. And after a tumultuous two years back in my hometown (but not because of my hometown), I can walk to the childhood home from which I so easily ran away some 15 years ago from my new job. Ah, the joys of irony.

When I first got my new job, I knew it might be located near my old home because the building is in the same suburb, to which I hadn’t really been back in quite some time. But what I didn’t realize was that it would be located in the dead center of a world I had known as a child and hadn’t thought about in years. The first time I interviewed for my job was when I realized just how close my childhood would be to me while working with this company. A couple of blocks down the road to the right is a swimming and tennis community that my family and others in our neighborhood built. I can still remember what that land looked like before it was constructed. I spent many a summer day at that pool with friends and family. I took swimming lessons, played “Marco Polo” and “Shark,” listened to Hall and Oates blasting from the stereo speakers, played tennis on the court. That pool was a huge part of my life. A couple of blocks to the left is my old neighborhood. Some of my most life-changing memories were created there. I met my best friend when I was four and learned I had lost her at 13 in that house. I raised and buried pets in our yard. I rode my first bike on its streets (and crashed head first into the pavement going down a huge hill thanks to my brother). I made trails through the woods and rode my moped for hours on end. I slept outdoors in sleeping bags counting the stars. I had sleepovers every year on my birthday until I was 17. It probably wasn’t much different than most kids’ lives in suburban U.S. neighborhoods in those days—except that it was mine. And now, just down the street from where a little girl learned and grew and changed and slowly became the person I am today, I while the hours away writing, editing, planning, learning, and growing even more in the same place I did in my formative years.

The first time I decided to drive past my old house since I started work, the memories came rushing back. I teared up when I saw that the house where I had made so many treasured memories was empty—not for sale, not lived in, just empty. The grass and trees were overgrown; the decks were old and dilapidated; the window shades were askew; there was even a window unit air-conditioner in one of the windows (we had A/C in that house when I was a kid; it was the 80s!). I looked up at the window to my old room and saw the Tot Finder sticker I put on it in grade school. Though the other houses in the neighborhood had been kept up and even upgraded since we left, ours had been neglected. I took that to heart.

The night after I drove by my childhood home I had a dream: I went back to my old house, and it was for sale. All I could think was that I had to buy it, whatever condition, whatever the cost—I had to preserve my memories! I went in, and it was beautifully redone and fabulous (way more fabulous than when we lived there). I was so excited that I could save and actually live in my childhood home again all the while working right down the street! But when I woke the next morning, I remembered the reality, and again, I was sad.

There’s nothing I can do about the state of the house I spent so much of my life in. All I can do is remember the good times, mourn the bad times, and go on with my life as it is now—healthy, happy, and blessed in so many ways. And, maybe, shed a tear or two every now and then as I catch a glimpse of my past.