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Monday, September 14, 2015

No Longer Home

Written on the way home from a weekend trip back to Virginia:



It’s strange coming back to a house no longer your home. At first, as you drive down familiar streets, you feel almost as if you’re returning from a long vacation. You pick out particular places as you pass: the turn to the library, the Safeway shopping center you’ve walked to many times, the swimming pool at the end of your street. The house comes into view just as you remember, except that the lawn and garden are overgrown and the two flags- one large American flag by the garage and a smaller garden flag in the dying flower patch- are nowhere to be seen. 

The garage door rumbles upward, and your van inches in, careful to avoid the close sides of the doorway. And here, in the garage, are the first reminders that you’re not really home. The shelves are empty of tools; the bikes no longer hang from the ceiling. Where the refrigerator was, an unused door leans against the wall. On the far side of the garage, a small American flag hangs in the place of your large one, like a child trying to take his missing father’s place. Only a can of paint and a few other miscellaneous items remain, abandoned by workers who slipped in while you were gone.

You walk up the three steps and into the house, and with one breath you know it’s changed. The air is sharp with the scents of fresh paint and new carpet. “Shoes off before you go on the carpet,” your parents order, as if you’re strangers in a house for sale. The whole place feels strangely new. The carpet is too soft beneath your feet, the newly-painted walls too white, as if you and your sister hadn’t spent twelve years of your lives growing up here. Nothing else looks as it should either. Some rooms seem achingly large when before they were just big enough; other rooms that once were comfortably cozy seem to have shrunk to half their size. Many seem the wrong color, though maybe that’s just because of the carpet and paint again. All the rooms, touched or untouched by workers, are echoing empty. Only the curtains limply hanging over windows and the tiny holes in the walls where pictures hung suggest you lived here at all.

The first re-exploration done, you and your family scrub and vacuum the house to rid it of all the paint and carpet fuzz left by workmen’s tramping feet. Before long, the citrus-bleach scent of cleaning supplies and the dusty odor of old vacuum cleaners cover up the paint and carpet smells, and the roar of the vacuum and the competing music in your headphones fill in the echoes. Yet you cannot forget that this is not your home, not anymore.


 

12 comments:

  1. What a strange sensation that must. be. I can't imagine what it would be like to see my home of nineteen years like that. As a kid, I always dreaded the thought of moving, but as I got older I came to realize that the only thing that made it home were the people and the memories. Still, it would be strange to see my house so different after all these years.

    I actually experience something like this at the public school where my dad used to teach music. I went to his band and choir classes for six years, and for one and a half years I took art and German there too, meaning I spent half the day at public school, something very different for a homeschooler like me.
    After a while, the state decided to make an issue of the fact that I and my siblings were attending a school part time when it was not technically in our district. At first, the state said that we couldn't participate in competitions, but after we questioned it they decided that we could not attend the school at all, unless we transferred to full-time public schooling for at least a year, if not more. So, sadly, we had to give up our classes there and continue as best we could on our own.
    Now when I go back there, I see how my friends have moved on, and how the new music teacher has changed the program. It's very strange how everything is so different, and yet so similar.

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    1. It is strange. Strange and sad. And yes, home is in the people and the memories . . . but moving means leaving people behind (even if they didn't live in your home, the people who lived near it) and memories are stronger than you think . . .

      Anyway. I'm sorry you had to lose your classes, but I'm glad you (seem to) have gotten to go back.

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    2. I go back to visit for special occasions sometimes. I play in the community pep band when I can, and I also drop off letters to the Literature teacher, who I really enjoyed visiting with. :)

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  2. You have an excellent way of describing things. For a moment I felt as if I was experiencing this strange sensation of leaving behind the familiar- now almost unfamiliar.

    Have you settled into your new house yet? How is it there?

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    1. Thank you; I'm glad I was able to carry this off.

      I have settled into my new house. It's nice- a bit smaller than our townhouse, but not by much, fairly new, one level and a basement (I'm sick of stairs, to be honest), with, as I mentioned before, a lovely backyard and view. There are some things I don't like- certain rooms (namely my room and the basement) tend to be a bit dark, even in the middle of the day. But overall I like it.

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    2. Sort of? It's in upstate New York, so it's a more rural area, but I'm not sure if it really counts as the country?

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    3. It sounds nice. Perhaps you will give us one of your lovely word-paintings about it sometime?

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    4. Maybe sometime- when it gives me the inspiration, I will.

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  3. Hi! I'm visiting from Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Show-and-Tell! Your story premise sounds great. I like the way you took the elements from the old tale and wound it into a more modern setting. Keep up the good work! I hope to read your story someday! ;)

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    1. Thank you very much! I'm glad you like it so! (The setting is steampunk-fantasy, for the record- so not entirely modern, but certainly not the traditional fairy tale setting.)

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