Sunday, September 03, 2006

There's no place like home

When I was 5 years old, we moved from "the city" to "the valley". If you live in Los Angeles, you know what that means. I have touched on this subject here.

The valley was the place that a young couple could comfortably afford to buy a home, away from the city, and raise a family.

The years I spent on this street in the valley were magical. The kids on the street, although various ages, could spend hours together roller skating, bike riding, playing hide and seek, cowboys and Indians, and just generally running through the neighborhood.

Although I spent the first five years of my life in another home, the one in the valley is where I carry the most memories of my father.

When a child experiences the death of a parent, grief is revisited over and over again as you progress through life. At each new stage you come to understand it from a different perspective. New feelings are uncovered, and hopefully an opportunity for growth is found.

Many years ago, after the birth of my second child, the enormity of taking care of two children led me to a deeper place of dealing with my grief. As I navigated through these feelings, I began to think about my home in the valley...the one I grew up in...the one I associated most with my dad.

I even began to dream about that home and imagine what it would be like to go inside. I wondered how it would be to visit the lavendar bedroom, the bathroom mirror that my dad and I would stare into together while making funny faces, the kitchen where my mom would make a proper dinner each and every night, the empty living room where I learned to do somersaults, the master bedroom where I could find safety with my parents.

It was 1993, and I could not stop thinking about going inside that home. I almost felt a sense of urgency, that somehow, walking through this past...would be healing in some way.

I was able to track down the owner of the home, and wondered if I should contact them.

Imagine getting a letter or phone call from some young woman saying..."you have no idea who I am, but I was actually the little girl who lived in this house first, way before you did. I would like to come walk through the house because I have some feelings of grief I would like to deal with, so you won't mind if come right over, would you?"

Yeah, right, no problem little (psycho) girl...

But, I felt determined and certain, that this was just what I needed to heal my heart.

And, when one feels determined and certain, one will do just about anything.

I contacted the lady of the house. I explained who I was and began to rattle off things about the house that only someone who had lived there would know. (you know, kind of like the killer who knows information the police have kept out of the public).

I named neighbors who were still living there, and even ones that had long sinced moved away.

She believed me...whew!

We talked. She was kind. And even said that she would be willing to let me come to her home.

But, as life sometimes just happens...nature took it's course...

As I mentioned above, it was 1993...the end of 1993, when we spoke. A few weeks later, the Northridge earthquake would hit. We would speak again following this event, only to have her tell me that I could come after their repairs had been made.

Didn't she understand that I didn't care if she had a broken shower, or if her ceiling was on the ground? I was a woman wanting to heal the heart of the little girl inside me. Who cared about "red tags" or FEMA?

I called one more time...she made every excuse not to let me come. Who could blame her really. To her I was just some nutty woman wanting to walk through her home, searching for ghosts.

How could she understand what walking through that home could mean to me? How could she imagine the little girl who once slid down her stairs on her tummy, or ran through her kitchen looking for oreos and milk, or cried in the safety of a once lavendar bedroom?

She could not.

I never called again.

I have driven by that house a couple of times since. Each time, I hope that someone is standing outside so I can tell them my story and ask to walk through.

I drive by, hoping that I can tell them...I'm the little girl, who rode a bike for the first time in that driveway, who felt safe with her mom and dad and brother and dog and turtle, who put on her roller skates with a key, and played Barbies til dark.

Thirteen years ago, I really thought that going through my valley home would be the key to healing the wound of grief.

I now know, it's okay if I never go in. But if I happen to drive by one day, and they are kind enough to let me...

I know it is something that this little girl from the valley would be forever appreciative of.


Mia said...

I feel like picking up the phone right now and call the lady up. But then again, that would be really weird ;) I am very sorry you never had the opportunity to go visit "your" house again, but maybe it is better that way. I am sure they re-decorated and maybe even renovated a lot and it might not look the way it did.

Be strong, lots of hugs, Mia

Mildred Garfield said...

It's just as well that you did not see the inside of your house.

The reason I say this is because: I saw an ad in the real estate section of the newspaper: the house I shared with my husband and son for 38 years was for sale and they were having an open house: spoke to my son about it and said: "what do you think, do you want to go with me to see the inside of the house we lived in for so many years.

We gave it some thought and decided NOT to go to the open house.

Fortunatly we found out that we could see the inside of the house through the internet when it is on the market.

It was hard to look at what the owners had done to the house. -- It was a small house and they had LARGE pieces of furniture in the rooms.

Floral wallpaper, pictures that were hung too high and all sorts of things that I did not appreciate.

It was a good thing we did not go because I think my son and I would have been in tears to see what they had done to "our house."

It was hard enough to see it via the internet.

Head over heel said...

I strongly believe that once you walked through "your" house your pass will finally "rest". I went to a boarding school for one year and did not made very good experiences, however after that I dreamed of this school for years. One day a friend of mine took me back to this school and we walked through it....since then the dreams stopped! BTW beautiful story and your story is similar to my next blog.

Danny said...

Loved this post—so moving and poignant. Being a very nostalgic person myself, I have visited several of my former homes and it's always eery and a little sad. But I do hope you get the chance to walk through that place. I love when former residents come over to my current house.

torontopearl said...

Every house is a house, but not every house is a home. Even with the death of your father when he was young and you were young, your house was a home. It is what you and the people who lived there made it. But truly, it is primarily a structure that holds memories...lots of "firsts." More importantly, it is your heart and your mind that hold those memories close. You can always transport those with you; as you see, you can't transport a house usually.

kasamba said...

I have goosebumps all over- it was so beautifully written.
It's such a shame that woman was so insensitive to you. I think you should try again, just to give you the closure you crave.

Jack's Shack said...

This was beautiful.

Wendy said...

This was so touching. The memories you hold so dear are the key. The house is just a bricks and mortar. The feeling and the home you had are so much more. Hold them close.

cheated are the clouds said...

Wendy I like your comment as it is so true,Memories are a funny thing as they hold keys to our future way of thinking, I have always thought that they should be remembered as they were as so they will not become tarnished , visiting your old home now may leave you feeling cheated as it will not be the same and that memory may become tarnished, but My mom had a cousin who did this and she actually found some scribble on the wall which was still there after all these years, she is in her seventies and it was a great comfort to her to relive those days, If you decide to visit I wish you all the happiness in the world in the experience, these are only my thoughts of course as I have never been through anything like this, Our family home is still in the family, good luck, very nice post

Doctor Bean said...

This is a beautiful post, evocative of longing, loss, and crystallized memories that will not fade. Perhaps you can distract away these uncomfortable feelings with a burger.

cruisin-mom said...

Mia: thanks for being so "protective"!

Millie: I have thought about that side of it...going in and of course, everything being completely different. But I think it would still be okay.

HOH: I imagine it would be more healing than hurtful. Looking forward to reading your next blog.

Danny: great to see you here! Too bad you aren't the owner of my former least I know I get a good tour and probably a home cooked meal to go along with it!

Pearl: woah...i love what you said.

kasamba: I don't even know if the same people still live there...

jack: thank you :)

wendy: thank you for that beautiful sentiment.

Cheated: thanks so much for your kind words of support.

Doc: why, yes...I think a burger, no, perhaps a thick juicy steak, could take away the sting of my pain.

Regina Clare Jane said...

Hi, c-m. I echo how beautiful and heartfelt a post this was. My husband actually got to visit his childhood home and they had made so many changes to it, it really didn't look like his home anymore. But he still loved visiting there. It gave him a real sense of peace afterwards... I still am able to go home, but I admit to feeling out of place there sometimes.
Anyhoo- you always have something worthwhile to share and I appreciate it.

cruisin-mom said...

RCJ: thanks for you kind words, as always...I'm glad your husband had that experience.

Stacey said...

This was so moving and beautiful. (I sat and cried at work). I wish you could print out this beautiful post and mail it to your old address.

When I got pregnant with my 1st, my parents announced they were selling my family home to move to Texas to be close to their grandchildren.

I was thrilled, but sad, too, because I lived in that house my entire life. And not just me. My father grew up there (and my aunt and uncle). It had been in the family for over 50 years.

When I was back in Ohio during Pesach, we went to the house. We knocked on the door. I wanted my children to walk into what was such a happy, special place in my life. But alas, the owner wasn't home. I did see a big dog at the window, however. And for some reason, it just brought me such peace and happiness knowing a dog still lived there.

cruisin-mom said...

Stacey: I am so touched that this post moved you to tears. I can only imagine how hard it was for you when your parents announced the sale of your home. Maybe someday, you and I both will be able to walk through our old homes.

Chana said...

WOW. You insipred a whole post on my blog. It got too long to post here!!

I think you should try again. She's certainly had enough time to finish renovations, and she may have even sold the house since then!

cruisin-mom said...

Chana: I am so touched that my words inspired you to write a whole post, thank you.

It's beautiful