Thursday, September 20, 2012
I don’t long for my childhood home. I never have. In fact, when we moved from my first childhood home, I never looked back. We were moving“up” in the world of houses, so we were gaining space where the places of memories made were being lost. But, with even more space—bigger bedrooms, large yard, three floors—my connection to that second childhood home didn’t grow. It was just a house, a structure. I never really loved being home there.
I’ve ever only really lived in one house that I loved: 15 Harrison Ave. It was an old house that my parents bought and fixed up. They tailored it to their liking. Wallpaper was put up in the foyer, staircase, and bedrooms. Toile in different patterns and shades throughout, thus delegating rooms to become “the red room”, “the blue room”, and “the yellow room”. The floors remained—old, wide-paneled wood boards—but were sanded and stained. Lighting sconces, chandeliers, and new fans were hung from the ceilings, crown molding laid to border the house throughout. The kitchen was completely redone with earthen-red tiles, dark granite countertops and new black appliances. The rest of the ground floor—the kitchen and living room walls—were painted in a shade of yellow cream. The attic was finished and turned into another living area. A second bathroom was put in. The house became ours, and we loved it.
Weekends were spent in this house, as were summers. It was a two-block walk to the waterfront and a bike ride to the beach. Friends and family often hailed from out of town to stay with us. Summertime meals were always cooked on the grill and dinner eaten at the picnic table on the back deck. We ate too many hamburgers and hotdogs. Post-dinner evenings were spent in the white rocking chairs on the front porch. We drank wine, rocked back and forth, chatted lightly. The man who lived across from us would come out every night and yell to us “how are ya?”, to which we’d commonly reply with an invitation to the porch. His outfits never, ever changed—cobalt blue polo with white shorts. The house became filled with happy people frequently. It was a happy house.
Garrett and I spent two full summers at 15 Harrison together. Living was light and fun. Jobs were easy and would send us home happy. We played a lot of scrabble, drank a lot of beer and wine. Snuck into each other’s bedrooms at night. Found the bars that we could get into underage. We lived in a happy bubble, just the two of us together. A bubble that was only pierced when we had to leave 15 Harrison to return back to school and join our friends in the fall.
The fall of 2010 was the last time that Garrett and I lived at 15 Harrison. We moved and settled across country that October. My dad had tears in his eyes when he hugged us goodbye. When we left, we took the last ounce of measurable joy that house had with us. At that time, 15 Harrison was no longer a happy house.
There had been discord between my parents for some time at that point. Months of quiet dinners, terse encounters. No more hugs or affectionate moments were shared. My mother began locking my father out of the bedroom at night. They never discussed it. The house became sad.
My dad moved out of 15 Harrison that following February. Boarders moved in. Furniture was moved around, dust gathered in corners. Mildew coated the showers. Piles of papers bunched on table tops. The house transformed. The grass grew too tall. Bikes that were left out during summer storms and winter snow rusted. 15 Harrison was no longer beautiful.
When Garrett and I returned, the sadness was palpable. This was not the house I loved. I longed for the happiness to return to 15 Harrison while I slept between its walls. I slept on a couch, in the living room. The bedrooms were full with boarders. I became embarrassed by this house. It had become too much a reflection of its unkempt keeper. It was a disheveled, melancholy house.
I last crossed the threshold of 15 Harrison two days after my wedding. By then the house had sold, to a young couple whose family already owned property down the road. I hope that they can bring the happiness back to the house. You only have to ask; it has so much to give.
15 Harrison is the one house that I long for. But is it the house itself, or the solidity it once represented? We were a happy family in that house, a real unit. The dissipation of the house reflected the breaking of our family unit. It became a house divided. To me, it is still a sad house. And I wish we were the ones that could make it happy again. But that chance has gone the way of my parents’ marriage. Our broken family left it a broken home.