Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I Can't Go Home Again

My mom is on the phone. "I drove by the old house," she says. "You better go by there because it looks like they are going to move it off that land and build something else there. If you want to see it before it's gone, I would go soon."

I hang up the phone and try to process what she has just said. The home I grew up in? Gone? That very night I persuade my husband to drive with me over to the house, just to see. As we pull into the driveway in the failing light, there is a large piece of construction equipment blocking our way. We can only pull in so far. Our tires crunch over the gravel and stop. My husband cuts the engine and sits quietly, allowing me to look at the shell of the house that once was but is, clearly, no longer.

I try to take it in. The house is now sitting up on blocks and the red bricks have been removed. The carport has been peeled away and so has the front porch. It is a grotesque skeleton stripped of its flesh. I remember sweeping that porch for one of my chores. I played Little House on the Prairie and sang like Ma while I worked, pretending the broom was fashioned by my own hand from branches and pine needles. Every spring I would set bare feet on the gravel drive for the first time and wince with pain as the sharp rocks stung my tender feet, encased in shoes all winter and now-- finally-- free. My mom would say, "You just need to let your feet toughen up." And I would painstakingly make my way down the long gravel drive as many times as it took. By the end of summer, I was running shoeless without hesitation. A country girl, my father would proudly say.

I lived in that house many summers. Through elementary school and middle school. Through my parents' divorce and remarriages to other people. Through deaths of dogs and the birth of a little calf. I cooked my first meals in that kitchen and got my first call from a boy. Though I didn't know it then, the woman I am now was becoming in that house.

I sit in the car and quietly ask my husband if I can go in, just one more time. He says no. It's not safe. Though I know he is right, I can't believe I will never go inside that house again.

I have often dreamed I still live there. I dream of running through the pasture and playing in the woods. Dream of the sound of my horse, running by my window. Dream of my room with the purple and white checked curtains and the big bay window that was just perfect for sitting and dreaming and reading. Dreaming of who I would be and what I would become. Picturing the children I would someday have, the man who would one day love me forever. Realizing just how rare it is to find such a person.

And now he sits across from me in the car, unable to feel what I am feeling yet willing to sit quietly for as long as it takes. Giving me time to say goodbye. I am slightly embarrassed at my own grief. It is just a house, after all. A place I have not lived in for twenty years. And yet, I always counted on it being there. A touchstone. The place I came from. A place I could return to if ever I needed to.

Finally I say, "We can go now" and we silently back out of the driveway, hearing the gravel crunch one last time. I watch the dark shadow of the house until it slips from view. The next time I go by this place, I know, it will be gone.

Later, as he is telling me goodnight, my husband says, "They can't take away your memories." And I smile at him through tears, knowing he is right. As I fall asleep that night, I hold the memories close to me, counting them as some might count sheep or blessings. In my last few moments of wakefulness, I wish that I could go there just once more. To etch those places in my heart just a little deeper, to record it all in some indelible place untouched by age or change. I realize that the home I am falling asleep in is a place that will, for my children, be what that place is for me. It is the place where they are becoming; the place they will go back to physically and, more often, mentally. I want to help them record these memories of ours, keep them for someday when they are needed. So I can help these little pieces of my future get back to their past. I will hold out my hand and whisper, "Here, let me show you the way." And together we will go home.

*I wrote this for this.
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Adventures In Babywearing said...

Marybeth, I feel like I just went there, too! And it was probably best you didn't go inside, so that your last memory is what really matters.


Jess said...

wonderful, friend!
love you-

JenB said...

awww. That almost made me cry. I've been sentimental lately about my hometown too. I wrote an "I Am From" poem the other day to record some memories (it's like a form poem, think Mad-Libs) Anyway, it was a fun way to write about memories.

Scribbit said...

Your husband sounds very understanding--what a lovely piece, thanks so much for entering this!

Tracey said...

I understand... though my childhood homes (2 of them) are still in their proper places, it feels strange to see the changes that others have made... the pine tree that my dad planted as a tiny little thing, which grew up, somewhat crooked? Chopped down. The garden we all worked so hard to grow our vegetables in? Sod instead. Sigh...

He's right. You're memories are always YOURS.

Jenni said...

Well, that made tears literally squirt from my eyes, girl! What a beautiful piece of writing...and such a poignant reminder to take time to make a Home Of Memories for our children, no matter where the physical building is.


Kelley at Aroma of Joy said...

I had a similar reaction when I went back to visit my old elementary school. It has been converted to an office building now but I could still see the faded lines on the playground (four square and hop-scotch). The jungle gyms sat silent and the tether ball poles no longer had anything attached to them. I sat in that parking lot and cried.

Just last week I drove past the first home my husband and I lived in together and I felt overwhelmed with emotion there too. We only lived there 4 years but there are a TON of memories in that house!

My childhood home is still up and your post makes me want to go and revisit that as well. I must really be getting old to be doing all of this reminiscing! I will shut up now, but first I want to tell you that I loved this post and I definitely think you should win the contest!!

Have a good one,

Elisa said...

A beautiful and touching story, Mary Beth. It triggers many thoughts in my own mind and makes me wonder all the more about what God has used to make us the women we are today.


Carol said...

Oh, my goodness. I hope you win. Marybeth, this was so beautiful. You took me there. I could picture my own growing up place. Thank you for sharing this little piece of your heart.

Mrs. Annie said...

You have captured those exact emotions of home. Very, very well done.

jubilee said...

Beautiful, just beautiful

Alice Wills Gold said...

I understand completely your feelings, my family all left our home in So California when I was 21. It was a very sad day to say goodbye to those old walls, but these were my exact words to my crying mother.

"mom it is just a house, home is where your heart is."

GreenishLady said...

Such a beautiful piece of writing. I just love the conclusion you reach here, and the peace you seem to find in that. Beautiful!

ShackelMom said...

A lovely post! the house I grew up in still stands, but I know it is not the same. It has probably undergone numerous remodels... Your post made me think of that house and my memories of it.

angie said...

I love your husbands advice that they can't take away your memories. Congrats on your award!

Phyllis Sommer said...

mmm...beautiful. well worth the win!

Daisy said...

Your husband is a gem -- and you know that. To take you there, to remind you of what you already knew; that your memories will always live in your heart.