Today, I drove past the house where I grew up. I do that every now and then. Maybe I should stop. It always leaves me melancholy.
The house has changed hands multiple times since my family left it; but here it is, over 20 years later, and I live less than 2 miles away.
The first new owners pulled out my parents’ carefully cultivated rosebushes and the dwarf peach trees that blossomed with memories of sticky-sweet peachy-goo from finger tips to faces, and they slabbed it over with concrete on which to park their monstrous RV.
The next owners stumped the gorgeous silk oak in the front yard, leaving it as a wooden tombstone to my childhood.
The owners after that placed a giant clay pot on the stump. The mind reels.
The current owners finally removed the stump. The grass is a bit overgrown. The once open atrium at the front of the house, that was filled with plants that beckoned guests to the front door, is now empty and bars close off the entire opening to the front of the house.
I’m the sentimental one in my family. While my personality demands that I over-analyze and mentally work out all future eventualities so that I am always prepared for the worst-case scenarios; my emotional side tries to hold onto my past. I don’t want the landmarks of my life to alter, much less become unrecognizable. That house has become so. I had to drive by it twice before I could pick it out.
Why do I do that? Try to hold onto what once was, but isn’t now. It was a place of Wonderful World of Disney family popcorn-for-dinner nights and contests to see who could swim the farthest underwater in the pool. A place where we took hammers to the pool-side river rocks to see if we could find geodes (sorry, Dad). A place of tarantulas in the pool skimmer and lizards that made Grandma scream. A place of fire ants and root beer floats and Mom’s watermelon whale fruit salad bowl. A place where little girls with bandanas on their heads and brooms in their hands sang, “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” or dropped to their hands and knees to be Snoopy in “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”. A place where my sisters and I sat in the dark front room of the house before the twinkle-lighted Christmas tree playing “I Spy” and shared what we hoped we’d find under the tree in the morning. It was a place of many things. It was.
But that place isn’t mine any more. No part of it. What is still mine are those memories. They always will be, as long as I have the ability to remember. But I don’t live there any more. Those memories can be momentary touch-points—the way you absent-mindedly reach out to be sure your phone is still next to you while you are focused on the task at hand. Those memories are still within reach, but they aren’t my “now”.
Before me is a path not-yet-taken. My curiosity propels me forward into the unknown that awaits. I may turn for a moment to watch the past fade behind me before stepping forward; but I must keep moving. There is so much more ahead. And for once, I’m excited at the prospect of that. The future is laden with hope, and not fear. It’s time to move further on.