Thursday, October 03, 2013

You Can't Go Home Again (But With Memories You Don't Need To)

My grandmother sent an e-mail out today, the subject line of which was an address:  54 Fairfield Street.  That was my address in Carlisle, PA where I grew up, where we lived until October 1990 when we moved to another part of Carlisle.  Curious as to what it was about, I read further & found that the house is, once again, up for sale.  More intriguing, pictures of the house are included on the realtor's website.  She encouraged us to take a look, noting that my uncle had looked & had seen nothing about the house that even remotely looked like when we had lived there.

With more curiousity than dread, I decided to check out the site after I finished paying some bills.  I typed the address into the search on the realtor's website & immediately the house came up.  Immediately I recognized the house & knew everything was loading properly, having been by the house dozens of times since we moved out & I knew what changes had been made to the exterior.  When we lived there, the house was white aluminum siding, but since had been replaced with a greyish vinyl siding.  They had also covered the nearby garage with it, enclosing the breezeway where we used to sit in the summertime.  No matter what time of day, it always seemed there was an actual breeze & actually felt cool.  Now, I'm sure, it's a bit more temperature controlled for year-round usage.  I moved on to the remainder of the pictures, recognizing some of the rooms, but with a different look.  Even though my grandfather spent countless hours painting before we moved out, fresh coats covered each wall in different colors than I remember.  The kitchen had modern appliances & different trim.  The rooms that had wooden floors looked to shine with a newness, far from the worn wooden floors we walked on.  The most recent owners had even built in a wall to separate the living room & the back room, something that just really stood out to me, but looked really good.  Shots of the backyard showed plenty of green grass & trees, but still seemed like an updated, newer version of what we had.  I let the slideshow play through until the end & just thought for a few minutes aftewards about everything.  It's when I realized that it wasn't about what they pictures showed, it's about what they DIDN'T show.

Just like my aforementioned memories of the breezeway, it seemed a lot I remembered about the old house had been covered up by new, modern advances, but if I looked close enough, I could see them in my mind's eye.  The front door was hardly ever used as that, only when unknowing mailman substitutes came to drop off bills or in the summertime when we'd leave the door open to let air in (as well as the busy sounds of Rte 81).  I saw nothing of the narrow hallway that led to my grandparents' bedroom, the bathroom, the door to the 2nd floor, & a small closet where an index card hung on the inside of the door with my birth date, time, height & weight (for what reason, I don't know).  One of the upstairs bedrooms, the one where my uncle stayed, looked different without an Air Force poster on the door.  I didn't even recognize the basement at first because it seemed to have more light in it, possibly because it wasn't full, as our basement had always been.  There were no Sir Walter Raleigh tobacco cans filled with nuts & bolts sitting on shelves or on the window sills.  I wondered if you still had to duck to walk down the steps to get into the basement because of the big wooden beam or if they had someone corrected that also.  The garage was much the same as the basement:  a lot of light & seemed far too empty.  Absolutely no cardboard boxes sat on the floor, filled with old, brittle records that we used to play as Pap & I tinkered around at his work bench.  No engine for an old Ford truck on a hoist, waiting to be dismantled & scrapped because it needed to go & we needed something to do.  The above-ground pool that we used every summer, listening to the Drifters or the Dirty Dancing soundtrack as we splashed around, was no longer there, apparently for more yard space.  I didn't even want to see what happened to the old shed in the backyard,  It was rickety when we used it, but we still used it.  The upper loft was a bit dangerous to explore, but I always liked walking around on the ground floor.  Every now & then I'd run across an old football card laying partially covered in dirt & chewed by mice at the corners.  If that had been a 13-14 year old me, I'd have been dismayed at finding them.  But to a 5 year old, it was like finding treasure, no matter what condition they were in.  I doubt the most recent owners were gardeners, but they had some great land for it behind the shed.  My Pap loved to raise all sorts of vegetables there & we ate pretty well because of it.  I'd sometimes watch him work there while I swung on the nearby tire swing.

So while all of these thoughts came back to me & I felt slightly annoyed that things had changed, I sighed & remembered that time marches on.  I couldn't expect the people who bought the house from us to leave things unchanged, just as those owners can't think whoever buys it next will not want to improve it.  But no matter how much paint or building materials they'd use or how much cleaning they'd do, they can't cover up the memories I had built in 10 years there.  I can see things there just as clearly now as I did actually living in it back then.  Time will probably make those memories fuzzier as I get older, but they'll still be in there, stored somewhere in the folds of grey matter.  As cool as it would be to own that place, knowing it's where I grew up, it's not necessary as long as I still own those memories & can revisit them from time to time.

Hope you guys (and gals) didn't mind my stroll down memory lane.  Do any of you have strong memories of the first house you lived in?  Feel free to share any of them in the comments below.  I look forward to reading them.

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