It’s only half a mile from where I live now. Follow the road as it snakes its way down a rock-strewn hill, then flattens out and runs like a ribbon in front of lawns where holsteins once grazed on sweet clover. Round another corner and the house comes into view: a cape, white with black shutters, just like so many others scattered across New England. Except this one is special, at least to me. This is the house I grew up in.
More than thirty years have passed since my family sold this house, yet hundreds of memories flooded through me as I stood in front hallway on Sunday. Ordinary days of running out the door when I was late for the bus; extraordinary days when I left for college, when I got married.
Who was that person, rushing out, so anxious to find out what life had in store? Is there some trace of her within me? When I look in the mirror, I see her still, even though the face, like the house, is transformed with age. Are her dreams so different now?
How long do we keep our previous homes in our hearts? All these years later, I could walk through that house blindfolded. I wept as I stood in my old bedroom, utterly changed, yet still mine. In The Most Beautiful House in the World (Penguin Books, 1990), Witold Ribczynski describes his home as “the landscape of my everyday” life. This landscape of my childhood is seared into my soul because it was there that my soul was forged.
Memory is a tricky thing. The rooms felt smaller, but the sunlight pouring through the window was as bright and warm as it had ever been. Not every memory from that house is happy. How could it be? But I was loved there, and felt safe there. Birds build nests that suit their habitat, their biology and anatomy. They nestle into contours that fit their bodies precisely. That house was a perfect fit.
Thank you to Stacey, Dana, Betsy, Beth, Kathleen, Deb, Melanie, and Lisa for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.