Visiting the place where your entire childhood was formed, if that childhood was a good one, full of more happy memories than hard ones, which mine was, you tend to feel emotions choke up from your heart into your throat. Then those emotions fill your head and memories run together like a movie reel and then it all spills out down your face and you whimper into the phone at your mom: “Those were some of the best and happiest years of my life…”
Those were the years of innocence, before the hot pain of heartache, before the world’s bony fingers dug their way through the nourishing cocoon walls of idealism your parents wrapped you in and could protect you with.
Those were the years when days started wondering what adventure might await, not dreading what new trial might fall upon us.
Those were the days of running in a yard soft beneath bare feet. They were sunny afternoons climbing trees rough and scratchy that left scrapes and bruises that you looked over in the bath that night. Those bruises told the story of a day full of real, hard play.
They were late evenings, playing until the last drop of sun slipped beneath the wisps of milky clouds against a pale gray backdrop.
They were nights of warm hugs, Dad pushing covers tight around you, Mom reminding you it was time for sleep not reading about Narnia or houses on the prairie.
Sitting in my van, in the driveway of that house, full of not only my memories but those of several generations of my family, it all rushed back like someone had pushed a button on the DVD player, or for the teens who might read this, clicked start on the YouTube video.
I opened the door to the van and set my daughter’s feet in the grass my own feet had touched 30 years before while my son ran toward the trees my hands had helped me climb with my friend Julia. Thinking back now, I realized we may have all been touching the same dirt my great grandfather turned to plant a garden.
Maybe the same trees my great aunt climbed or my great grandfather’s sister leaned against to steady her arm to click the shutter of the camera she used to capture my family’s real moments.
Or the same earth my grandmother touched as a child, laughing with her friends.
Here I stood with another generation born from a man who left Scotland and others who left England and Ireland. Another generation ready to start their own journey through life and maybe this ground would somehow hold some memories for them too.
The house is falling down, really. The foundation is crumbling, the paint has chipped away, half of the chicken coop I remember running in and out of (screaming because a spider touched me or chicken poop ended up on my shoe) has been pulled down or has fallen down. Tenants have used it, abused it and tossed it aside, unaware of the memories held within it’s walls for so many. My parents aren’t sure what they’ll do with the property and though it’s hard, my brother and I wonder if it shouldn’t be torn down and the land sold to someone else so they can start their own memories.
Oh how hard it is to think of that house not being there anymore, though. It’s only wood and glass and stone, but to us it is aliving soul who cradled us as we grew, comforted us when we cried, enveloped us when we laughed.
Here is the kitchen window, where Mom would stand to wash the dishes and watch for Dad to enter the driveway back from Grandma’s, or another trip to the hardware store in Dushore. Here are the stairs I’d stumble down each morning to get ready for school.
Here is the room where I read about lives much more exciting than my own, where I filled journals with meloncholy ramblings of a teenager. It looks so small and dark now, I wonder how I didn’t feel more claustorphobic and wonder now if that’s why small spaces make me feel panicky.
Here is my brother’s room where he crafted poem after poem, about life and love and all that poems are meant to be filled with.
Here was the space beside the swing set (still standing some 30 years later) where Dad used to plant his garden: corn, squash, tomatoes, green beans, carrots and more.
Here is the spot where Molly’s Window once was. Molly, who carved her name in the window to see if her engagement ring was a real diamond, sometime in the 1930s.
Here is the driveway where I learned to ride a bike, with my dad’s hand steadying me while I pedaled and where he now helps my son learn to ride his own bike.
The tears are hot again because here is my heart, inside this 150-year old wood, this crumbling structure where dreams were formed, steady foundations formed, and love was shown.