That Old House


Last week as my husband and I were driving into town I noticed we were coming up on the street that used to take us to my parent’s house.  It made me a little sad and I blurted my revelation out before I could help myself.  My husband, perhaps noticing the wave of nostalgia that was washing over me, said, “Do you want to drive by?”

Did I want to drive by? It sounded like such an innocent question but I know what he was really asking. He was really asking, “Do you want to go and be that creepy person that can’t let go of a house? Do you want to drive by and stalk the new family?”  My answer was a resounding, “Yes!” After all, they only bought the house a week ago, I had the right to still love it, didn’t I?

He turned left, drove the 8 streets and turned right toward my parent’s old house. I don’t know what but I was feeling nervous. Were they going to be outside? Would they see us drive by? Would they think I was weird? Did they paint the house? Did they pull the tree? Did they replace my mom’s plants?”  I was anxious. Nothing happened. There was no car in the driveway, there was nobody outside, everything looked exactly the same.

What did I expect?

I don’t know what I expected. I guess there was a part of me that was hoping to see what used to live there. I wanted to see a little dark-haired girl having a tea party with her dolls and sister in the front yard under the  big oak tree.  I wanted to see a little boy and his friends playing football in the backyard. I wanted to see kittens and water guns and water balloons and croquet.

I wanted to see a dad in the garage cutting survey stakes into two piles so he could nail them together to make little wooden swords.  After they were nailed together the handles would be wrapped with black tape (no splinters!) for the knights to defend the cardboard “castle.”  Princesses carried swords too.  Little girls can be tough too!  Although usually there was a crafting table full of glue and sequins and glitter that became a mess before the swords were ready for girly use.   I wanted to see the rocking horse cavalry set it up outside. It was a poor cavalry, one two horses, one brown with blond hair and one black with black hair, but it was enough to keep the castle defended.

I don’t know what I expected to see but I think I wanted to know that a family was in that house again. I wanted to see that there were little kids that were going to play and grow up. I wanted to know that those four walls were once again going to hold the excitement of the first day of school and the whispered secrets shared during sleepovers and the tears from scrapes and bruises and sprains and the anticipation of a first date and the ache of a first broken heart and the accomplishment of high school graduation and the nerves of a baby flying the nest toward college for the first time. I wanted to know that once again it was going to be the sanctuary that someone was going to come home to when they needed mom or dad.

I remember being 5 years old and watching my Dad and his best friend build that house. Just the two of them, they built every single inch of that house and it was magical. I guess I just wanted to know that the house still held magic for someone. My family outgrew that home. My brother grew up and moved to Ohio. I grew up and moved out and got married. My little sister grew up and moved out and is engaged. We are all starting our own families in our own homes and that house my Dad built grew emptier by the year. My Dad started working back up north and my Mom was all alone in a home that only held the ghosts of years past. It makes me want to cry even now knowing that house is no longer ours, it’s no longer a place I can go back to when I need mom or dad. It belongs to someone else now and I guess I just wanted to know that…well…I don’t know. I just don’t want it to be just another “house.” I want it to be a home again and I want someone to love it.

My husband could see the sadness in my eyes, I’m sure of it, because he asked me, “Do you want me to drive by it again?” I choked back tears, shook my head “no” and let him drive away. Now it’s official. The last piece of my childhood is gone.

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