Tuesday, August 18, 2009

You're My Home

(Not my home, nor one that I've ever lived in, but this photo that I took of a house in my mom's neighborhood earlier this spring is very reminiscent of the house I write about in today's post. From what I can tell, they are gutting and reconstructing the left side of the house while keeping the other part intact. Or something like that.)

Certain dates are Post-It'ed on my brain. I may not always remember the third thing we needed to get at the grocery store, but why should that matter when I can tell you when I met my high school boyfriend (February 9, 1986), the date of my first plane ride (July 12, 1985), or Marie Osmond's birthday (October 13, 1959). OK, I admit ... I needed to look up the year on that last one, but hey, gimme props for knowing the date.

And whenever August 18 rolls around, I'm kind of beset by a little twinge of nostalgia.

It was 30 years ago today my family moved into the house that I consider to be my childhood home. We only lived there for 10 formative years, but to me, it was the place where I thought I would be returning during breaks from college and where my best friend planned my wedding in the back yard. You'll be behind the oak tree there, I can still hear her say, neither of us giving any thought to the fact that me and my wedding gown in the middle of a pachysandra patch would have given my grandmother her fifth heart attack on the spot.

The omens weren't good for that house, it seemed. Mere days before we moved in, a hurricane blew down the above-ground pool in the backyard. My parents were secretly delighted; I was likely belligerent, insisting on it being replaced pronto, counting on a pool to win me friends and admirers afar.

A tree toppled on the house a few weeks (days?) after my father died, barely missing my brother's room.

And we won't even go into the battles with the batty neighbor next door, the details of which (right down to the hour and minute of the occurance) have been meticulously preserved in an extensive document that my father titled, in his simplistic style, "The Log." (You want a best-seller? That, my friends, is some great material, laugh-out-laugh-till-you-pee-your-pants moments there.)

We moved away from that house a decade later. Another decade later, The Dean and I moved around the corner. And when a posterboard was stapled to the telephone pole of our town's busiest street with GARAGE SALE and the address of my beloved home, I was determined to go. And I did.

I wasn't going to tell them who I was, but I'm kind of cursed with cultured pearls of DNA that compell one to tell total strangers all kinds of details about one's life. I come by this trait honestly, from my grandmother. So, who was I kidding when I say that I had no intention of telling these people I used to live in their house?

The next thing I knew, I was being hugged like a millionaire relative and offered a tour of the house. No thanks, I demurred. I knew what it looked like. They insisted, they wanted me to see some changes they'd made. I agreed, feeling a little like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

Their transformations twisted my heart. They'd torn down walls and put them up where there weren't supposed to be any. There were additions and new features, soaring skylights. Entire rooms of my life, now dust in the wind, knocked down like the above-ground pool. The backyard, no longer the scene of Weddings R' Us.

I left, politely, but feeling nauseous and stupid and inferior amid their interior largesse. They invited me back with my mom, my brother, my husband and kids. Sure, I replied weakly. We'll do that.

What made them think that I would want to see this house of horrors? I thought, driving off.

I've driven by a few times since, but I'll never again step inside. I don't need to.

I have August 18.

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