Friday, September 6, 2013

You Can't Go Home

My childhood home, where I lived from birth to age 10, was recently raided by police in connection with a drug trafficking organization. It was one of a number of homes searched resulting in the seizure of $35,000 worth of drugs and the arrest of 6 people. A picture of my home appeared in the paper. A silver airstream trailer sat in the crumbling driveway. I imagined Breaking Bad style meth labs. How far it has fallen from the idyllic memories of my childhood.

My parents claim it was never a nice house. Too small, too unstable, my brother and I were not allowed to jump in the house because we might crash through the rotting beams of the floor into the dirt crawlspace below. When we jumped anyway the floor felt like a trampoline.

We didn't have central heating. Instead a monstrous heater was the focal point of our dining room, one Christmas Eve refusing to turn off so that we all roasted in our beds. To me it was like a fire place. After baths I would take my towel and sit on the floor in front of the heat, letting it dry me and chase away any winter chill.

We had an enclosed front porch where the Christmas tree went. It was cold out there so the tree tended to last a long time. One potted tree was still going strong at Easter, so we hung eggs on it and declared it an Easter Tree. We should have patented the idea, because shortly after decorations for Easter Trees were being sold at the Shoppers Drug Mart.

Our backyard was the location of mom's famous blanket forts that she would build by slinging a sheet over the clothesline and pinning the edges down with bricks. We planted corn one year, producing multi-coloured but inedible ears that we hung from the rafters in the garage. Another time it was sunflowers.

I held a funeral for my first cat in that backyard. She only lived 6 months, dying of feline leukemia despite the intensity of my love for her. I buried her collar in a Winnie the Pooh pencil tin and gave a eulogy from a rock in the garden. My friends from across the alley came and stood solemnly while I poured my first grief into the ground. I wrote her name in Sharpie on the rock.

My parents eventually moved us to a house of more suitable size. I didn't want to go. I can only imagine how cramped they had felt in our old house and how they had longed for a home that didn't seem set to fall into the crawlspace, but for me, dilapidated or not, my home was perfect.

As I think about it now I wonder if our family afforded the last instances of happiness within those walls. The house has obviously had a storied history since we left. Someone painted the shutters a hideous shade of purple after we moved out. We used to drive by as the years passed and marvel that the place was still standing. Over time it grew more and more neglected. The garden was untended. Junk began to collect in the yard. And now it seems it  has become the site of criminal activity. I expect that it won't be left standing much longer.

I just wanted to say that it wasn't always as it is now. I feel like the house needs defending. It was once the home of a joy-filled girl who rode her bike up and down the long driveway, climbed the tree in the front yard, ate home-made popsicles at a picnic table in the back, and said goodbye to a beloved pet while cicadas sang. It is the place I think of if asked to recall a sense of security and contentedness.

While you truly can't go home, home frequently comes with you, creating a series of rooms in your soul where memory resides. My soul, to this day, has floors that bounce.