Last week while dropping off my daughter at a friend’s house, we drove through the neighborhood where I was raised. Making a detour, we turned onto the familiar road, and I immediately noticed a For Sale sign in front of my old house. My parents had sold the house 28 years ago when my father retired and had moved full-time to what was then their vacation home. I’d not been in the house since a few days before the movers arrived to pack everything up, but to this day I have vivid dreams about the beautiful stone house.
After I dropped off my daughter, on an uncharacteristic whim, I returned to my neighborhood and knocked on the front door. I introduced myself and said I’d grown up there and just wanted to say hello. The owner remembered my name, as she had bought the house from my parents long ago. She graciously invited me in, and we chatted for a few minutes. Upon leaving, in another uncharacteristic move, I called a friend of mine who works at the listing broker and asked her to arrange a showing for me.
The next day I had the house to myself for almost an hour. It was eerie how familiar everything was, despite almost 30 years of another family living there. The door handles were the same; the light fixtures in many of the rooms were the same ones that had been there when I was a child. I walked into the bathrooms and turned the same faucets I had turned a thousand times in my youth. A flood of memories and sensations invaded my brain when I saw tile and stone flooring that was so familiar, yet long forgotten.
Running my hands along the cork wall my mother had installed in my old bedroom brought images of my own pinnings that had once been on that wall. What I noticed most were the sounds. The sounds of doors opening and closing, of locks turning, treads squeaking, echos and reverberations of the sound of voices in a particular room. So much was the same, but thankfully much was different too. I could see the shadows of remembered people and animals, of events big and small, but not so clearly or vividly that it was poignant.
I said goodbye to the house, and I left. I know it is the last time I will ever be in that space. Likely it will be torn down and replaced with some ostentatious structure that is too big for the lot but demonstrates some obscure form of success – a trend that is fashionable in too many neighborhoods these days.
My mother loved that house. Never one to emote, she kept her feelings about selling it closely guarded, but my visit there on Saturday was as much for her as it was for me. She would be pleased that the family who lived there maintained the integrity of the house, and they’ve lived in it well. I’m so grateful to have had this rare and wonderful opportunity to re-experience the smells and sounds and especially the spacial memories of a place that was so dear to me.