We’re in Ohio for a wedding this weekend and went to visit the old neighborhood with JB, my brother, and sister-in-law. Our old house had been foreclosed and HUD was now trying to sell it. A neighbor came out and shared that the bank wanted $22,000 for the house. My mother sold the house for $27,500 in 1973. She and my father bought it for $15,000 in 1953.
The house was empty and locked, but we wandered around it. It looked old and uncared for. It had been re-sided and the front porch had been enclosed. What shrubbery was there was gone (except for one evergreen at the corner of the front porch). The lilac bush was gone too. Lots of weeds and other “volunteers.” The cement in the postage stamp backyard all cracked and crumbling. The same garage door and metal fence were there. It all seemed so much smaller than in my memory.
We walked around the house and took pictures and reminisced, sharing stories of neighbors and seasons and family. Tangible evidence of life and stories is powerful. It evokes emotions from places deep within. On the front lawn I received a phone call from a colleague from school about some issue that needed to be decided before tomorrow morning. It felt strange to negotiate the issue on the front lawn of the house I grew up in, over 44 years ago.
It was not nostalgia really that was so overwhelming. It wasn’t wistfulness, but rather a larger sensibility about the vulnerability of our complicated yet simple selves in the innocent and haunting rush of relentless time.