I recently returned to the town where I spent the first six years of my life, and revisited my childhood home. It was an odd and surreal experience. Nothing had changed, and everything had.
I always think of that house when I hear the line “little pink houses,” because that’s what it was – tiny, and pink sparkly brick – but it’s still larger in my mind’s eye than it is in today’s reality:
The most disturbing changes were the trees – or the missing trees, I should say. See that stump on the right-hand side of the photo? That was a huge birch tree, my dad’s pride and joy. The people who now own the home said it had grown too large, and had to be removed.
In the side yard, along the left-hand side of the picture, there were two spruce trees – one larger, one slightly smaller – that were planted to commemorate the births of my brother and me. I was sad to see them completely gone, but the current owners told us that both trees had contracted some kind of tree blight and died.
The back side of the house held all kinds of memories. I remember that back door, and sitting on the steps. I remember that milk chute (the little white square next to the back door) – now welded shut, but once the place where the milkman would leave our dairy order and, on your birthday, a half gallon of complimentary ice cream. I remember that corner window – that was over the kitchen sink. And there used to be lilies of the valley, bleeding hearts, and lady slippers planted where those shrubs are. I thought they were the prettiest flowers in the world.
It was bittersweet to visit these places, and a reminder that nothing in life is static. Other people live in that house now. These were stops along my journey, and they exist in my mind’s eye much more vividly than in today’s reality.
I remember standing on the porch, posing for pictures. I remember learning to ride my bike on those sidewalks, in that driveway. I remember when “coming home” meant coming to this place, but there have been a lot of “homes” since then, and I’m sure there will be more.
When we move on, we carry the memories with us. The places and people won’t stay the same, but they’ll remain in our minds and hearts just as they were.
Perhaps that’s the meaning of home.