Yesterday my oldest daughter Jordan declared that today would be “electronic device free day” as in there wouldn’t be any playing with tablets or smart phones or any TV watching. It seemed like a good idea to me and the perfect opportunity to take a little drive into the past.
Once everyone was awake and fed, my girls and I piled into the car and headed off. I didn’t tell them where we were going because I wanted to reveal it as we went. To keep themselves entertained on the hour drive, they brought coloring books and Jaycie had a great time coloring in the My Little Pony book.
When we reached our destination, I accidentally drove by it because I didn’t recognize it. I’d taken them to my childhood home in Ontario, NY. On the way there I pointed out houses of friends I used to know and talked about trick or treating down the various streets on Halloween. So much of it was familiar to me and so much felt foreign.
I’d totally missed the driveway for my childhood home because I swear it used to be longer! The house and yard used to be bigger too! I suppose I’m the one who was smaller, but still! After I turned the car around, I drove down the drive that accessed my old house and three other houses. I parked the car just past my old driveway, grabbed my camera and got out. It didn’t look like anyone was home. Jaycie got out with me but Jordan stayed in the car, not quite as brave as her sister.
Jaycie and I walked up the driveway, onto the deck that my father built decades ago and to the front door. We rang the doorbell but nobody answered. Hoping no one was going to report me to the police or something, I started taking pictures of the outside of a house that held countless happy memories. It was bewildering how much it had changed and how many elements from my childhood weren’t there anymore.
There was one thing that was still there though and that made me very nostalgic: the rock wall my father built in front of the house. My brothers and I had pressed our hands into the wet cement of the base and I’ve had numerous dreams about those handprints. The rock wall had deteriorated over the years and the base cracked from the shifting ground but as I cleared away the overgrowth, I was able to find two hand prints. I can’t remember which hand print had been mine but I was extremely happy that any trace of them still remained! I pressed my hand into the prints still recognizable and reconnected for just a few moments with that childhood memory.
Jaycie and I walked around the side and back of the yard and I pointed out where we used to have a bunny pen, where the pool used to be and where all the lilac bushes, pussy willow and forsythia used to be. Seeing that none of those plants remained was rather sad but considering how huge the once-tiny pine trees had grown, I imagine they became too much to handle. I showed Jaycie the spa room my parents had added to the house a few years before we moved from there and I could vividly remember it being built.
Satisfied that I’d seen everything I needed to, Jaycie and I returned to the car and Jordan. I’m glad I finally went there and walked around the yard, it gave me a sense of closure that I’ve been missing. There was still a part of me that believed/hoped that somehow going back to my old house would return things to how they were, that somehow my father would be there waiting for me. But I know he’s gone and that such a thing isn’t possible. Time moves on, life is always changing and I’ve had tons of important life experiences in the decades since I lived there.
The girls and I had further adventures after leaving that house but that’s a different chapter. When we finally returned home I was so happy to pull into my nice long driveway with my huge yard and undeveloped farmer’s field stretching out behind it.
I used to think that I wanted to move back into my childhood home but that area isn’t for me anymore and that home doesn’t have the privacy and serenity of where I live now. As I went out this evening and picked a fresh quart of black raspberries, I knew without any further doubts how truly blessed I am to have the home I have and that the girls have it to grow up in and make their own memories. Home is so much more than a roof and walls, home is a place in the heart that can be visited whenever the spirit wishes.