I received word yesterday that the contractors had bulldozed my family home. The 125-year-old building that had been slowly succumbing to age and the settling ground was now no more. I thought about that place that I had called home for over 65 years, home not in the sense of a dwelling place but in recent years a receptacle for my past, a place for memories and a place to which I could return to visit and center myself, find my bearings.
Reflections come more easily as one gets older and memories and images sort of float through your consciousness. A few months ago I had returned to that family home after my mother died to “clean it out” and give away my parents’ accumulated possessions. When the house was empty I was ready to get in the car and drive away. My best friend who had helped me with the emptying process told me I needed to go back into the house and say goodbye. At first I thought there is nothing there. Say goodbye to what? Then I realized how important it was to say goodbye.
So I slowly walked through the house and in each room the images and the memories were like a tsunami pouring over me in wave after wave. The kitchen, where family meals were served and relatives and friends crowded around a table with every leaf in place. When it was fully extended there was room for little else. I looked around the table and saw the faces of the people who came and ate and received the joy of food well prepared and I listened to the stories that were told. Stories that were passed on from one generation to the next as food was eaten and glasses were raised. So many of those faces are gone now. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, even some grandchildren have died and given way to great-grandchildren.
I walked into the living room, reconfigured several times over the years, a place where the Christmas tree stood and my two sisters so excited on Christmas morning would tear at wrapping paper and excitedly display their gifts. When we got a television set there were the Friday night fights with popcorn and my father commenting on the way in which the fighters threw their punches. It was during one of these nights that he casually remarked that he had enjoyed boxing when he was in the Navy.
There was one bathroom for five people and I chuckled to myself about what happened so many times when there were more people who had to go and the line was three deep. When company came and stayed it got even more complicated.
My parent’s bedroom, the bedrooms for the three children in an upstairs converted from an attic space, the laundry room, each room each space alive with memories and images.
That receptacle of memories is now no longer, but the memories are there, they linger like a looped video, playing over and over, across time and space, to help me remember.
So write a story about your home, whether it still exists and whether it is no longer. Write a story about your memories in the rooms of your home. Remember the people, the place, the past.