In her Grammy-award-winning song, The House That Built Me, Miranda Lambert sings about returning to her childhood home. I know you can’t go home again. I just had to come back one last time.
This soulful ballad reminds me of a day when I rediscovered my boyhood home. Not by traveling to my hometown, or examining old photographs. But, on an early morning run.
I had covered only a few blocks when I saw a yellow front end loader parked in the street. It roared to life and began crawling up the driveway of a one story red brick house, circa 1960. The machines gaping jaws arched up then crashed through the roof devouring it like a hungry T rex. The beams snapped and the gables collapsed in a cloud of smoke.
I had run past this house for years. It was the only one of its kind left in a neighborhood now full of three-story townhouses and swankiendas. It reminded me of my first home. Baby Boomers like me grew up in this kind of place with lawn mowers, rope swings and red dogs.
My shoulders slumped as I watched the carnage. The old bungalow staggered, struggling to remain standing. It had reached the end of the line a lot like me, I thought.
Lambert captured the feeling with her musical phrase, “I thought if I could touch this place or feel it, this brokenness inside me might start healing.”
The loader struck again. Dust billowed. My eyes burned. The living room of the house lay bare like an open gash, its secrets revealed. A first kiss on the living room couch, a final farewell from the front door.
Another blow exposed tiny bedrooms with pink walls, where tears had been shed over boyfriends who never called and prom invitations that never came.
Finally there was the kitchen. Thanksgiving dinners had once emerged triumphant. Now pipes, counter tops and linoleum flooring heaved up through the haze like wounded animals in their death throes.
The maelstrom subsided as quickly as it had started. The operator lit a cigarette, idling his beast before shoveling the debris into a nearby dump truck. I stood alone in the street staring at the rubble that had once been a home like mine. The loss felt personal.
But, as I walked away a different thought struck me.
Somewhere the memory of this house lives on. Somewhere, secure in the minds of its former inhabitants, it will always be here waiting.
We all have such a memory…where we can go home again.
Malcolm D. Gibson
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