The house I wrote of yesterday stayed with me all day; I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I had intended a completely different point, about how we tear people down much easier than we build them up – people we disagree with, for example. We’ll stand in line to pick people apart for their flaws and shortcomings, their tastes, their politics, their looks. We generally stand by though and ignore people on the way up. We expect people to be self-sufficient and ‘make it’ on their own. Let them cross some shadowy line between tolerance and intolerance though, and it’s as if we suddenly view them as a threat to our stable world-view. A few words into the Old, Old House though, I found my mind going in a different direction.
I’m an Air Force Brat and career Navy Sailor, and have lived all over the world. I think that’s made me sentimental; I miss the houses I grew up in, the countries I lived in, and the people of different cultures I went to school with and later called shipmates. I found myself ranking how I feel about each house I called home, however short the time I lived there. Oddly enough, the house I called home for less than a year is the house I miss the most. I turned five years old there.
Soon after we arrived in Holland, we rented a small upstairs apartment from the owner of the candy shop on the ground floor. My room was in the attic; I pulled a rope to lower the stairs. From my bedroom window I looked out over Driebergen, Utrecht. It was in this tiny apartment that I became self-aware and began building memories. I have memories of living in Fairfield, California – where we moved from – but it was Driebergen where my mind began to mature and process impressions of the world around me. It was in Driebergen that I remember my first Christmas, attended Dutch kindergarten, made friends with other American boys my age, and learned that little boys shouldn’t mimic dad and cuss. I have memories of mom pulling a sled carrying my two younger sisters and me through the snow in the nearby park. We used to feed the ducks there too. I had my first sleepover in Driebergen. We lived next to a church with a tall bell tower. It had a really loud bell. Really loud. That may be, in fact, why we didn’t live in Driebergen long. From Driebergen , we moved to Amersfoort where we lived for two and a half years. That’s another story, though.
1967. Volendam, Netherlands. L-R Sally, Me, Mom, Dad, Marianne, Toni. I look like such a geek.
My point, though, (I love to digress 🙂 is that no matter where we live, we build memories of the place that we retain As a wonderful reader said in a comment “even when the house itself is gone, we always carry our childhood home with us.” We carry those memories for the rest of our lives. A few years ago, I drove by the the house in Tampa, Florida that I lived in when I left for the Navy. I lived there the longest. That’s the house I call home. It’s where my parents lived out their lives. It’s where I went when I came home from the Navy on leave. It’s where I lived and learned and loved. I laughed there and I cried there. I worked through my teenage angst there and where a girl broke my heart for the first time. I buried my pet Cockatiel, Christopher Columbus, in the backyard. I learned discipline and responsibility in that house. I watched television with dad there. It’s the house where I told my mom how much I loved her for the first time. It’s the house where I tended my dad while he died and my mom recovered from a broken hip. It was in that house that my parents went from caring for me, to me caring for them.
When I look back at all the homes I’ve lived in, I realize how much each one meant to me.
I remember how much life occurred within their walls. I know that each home I lived in is a book that tells the story of the different periods of my life. I wish I could place each one on a shelf in my library, dog-ear the pages, wrinkle some pages with tears of happiness and sadness -sentimentality, look at the photographs, smell the pages, relive the moments. I wish I could live in each one again.
When you move out of a house, do you leave memories behind? Yeah, I think so. You may not visit the house for many years, but when you do, you remember things you had forgotten. Some will say that the memories are always there, somewhere in the back of your mind, waiting to be triggered by a sound, a sight, a smell. But I know the truth. I know that a house is a home and that it remembers. A home holds the memories of the lives that it sheltered, the hearts that ached and laughed within its arms. An empty, forgotten home yearns for light and laughter. An empty, forgotten home needs souls to shelter while they grow. Empty, forgotten homes are sad sights because we remember our own homes and why we loved them.
Writing is a powerful release of emotion. I strive to pour myself into the poetry and prose I write. I want to evoke feelings in others that I feel and felt myself. I want to convey my impressions of life to those who read so they find themselves dreaming my dreams, laughing with me, crying with me. When readers comment that I made them feel what I felt, I am so happy, I am thrilled to know their hearts laughed, cried, and broke with mine. Writing is powerful.
Writers too can fall for the emotions they themselves put on paper. If I successfully conveyed my impression of an old, old, forgotten house, I am grateful. I am grateful too that I have the capability to regret something I wrote because of the powerful emotion it evoked in me. Once written, you can’t unwrite it, you have to live with your story, your poem, the emotions.
That’s why the old, old house stayed with me all day and into today. I love every house I have lived in because each one was home and always will be. If I were to visit each one, it would remember me.
That old, old house. I wish I hadn’t broken its poor back.