I had occasion today to stop by our old house at 8618, which we moved out of just over ten years ago. The occasion for stopping there was that I was out walking our golden retriever, Ryan, which I do every day, and, in fact, I pretty much walk by our old house every day, since we only moved across the street and just a few houses up the road. This occasion was different, though. While much of the inside of the house had already been surreptitiously gutted in the past week, this morning empty eye sockets stared out mournfully where only yesterday windows had remained. The azaleas and rose bush were cut off just above the ground, as were all the daffodils and whatever else had pushed up in this nascent spring. The shorn plants and the lonely sight of all those windowless gaps pulled me in for a closer inspection. Ryan followed patiently.
I would have expected the sight of the recently gutted interior of 8618 exposed in that way to have upset me but, strangely, it did not. Sadness did not prevail but instead curiosity took hold of me. I peeked inside, admiring the brick-and-block sturdiness and all the other hidden details, suddenly revealed, which made the house so rock solid. As I peered inside, I noticed that care had been taken to ensure that whatever was not to be removed was left intact and undamaged. The house is not to be torn down but redone on the inside and, perhaps, added to, as well. I felt an unanticipated sense of comfort with the less-than demolition of the house. It was not to be discarded but reborn. The fact that I was comfortable with the change made me smile.
Contrast that with the fact that, just three houses further down the road is the first house we occupied in this neighborhood, or, I should say was the first house we occupied in this neighborhood. 8612 was torn down to make way for a new, much larger house of far less character. That exchange of houses upset me as it seemed to be nothing more than an attempt to fill as much width and depth and height as the local zoning ordinances would allow. Square footage replaced a warm, welcoming home. Seeing 8612 discarded saddened me.
Now, I associate wonderful memories with each of those two homes. The first we lived in, 8612, was where we lived when Marie was born and where Liam watched through the front door as epically lousy basketball games were played for hours on end in the park across the street. The house even had a name, “The Blue House,” even though the only blue part of the house was the door.
8618 held a very special place in the hearts of the whole family. It was the home where we brought Rusty, our first golden retriever, a rescue, from a shelter down in Virginia. Over time, Rusty became so attached to 8618 that after we moved up the street he would try to sneak out of our new house and run away to go back home. It was also the place where Mary and the kids watched out the bedroom window as Dad donned a hooded sweatshirt and a Darth Vader mask to do battle with a nest of hornets and the place where youngsters awoke before dawn on Christmas morning.
And so it is sometimes with memories that they outlive the places where they happened. 8612 is gone and 8618 is about to have a fresh new life but both of them will live on in our memories.
Despite the fondness of the memories, though, it is tomorrow that really matters, our next step is more important and more interesting than the step before it.
Ryan and I had a walk to finish and that’s just what we did.