I don’t know why I answered the doorbell. I never do. Really. It’s always someone trying to sell me something—raffle tickets, candy bars, the salvation of Jesus Christ. But this time, I peeked out the window to see who might be there.
A father and son stood on my doorstep. I opened the window a tad, sounding annoyed, I’m sure: “I’m on a conference call right now. May I help you?”
The man looked at me apologetically, saying, “I grew up in this house.”
“I’ll be right out,” I said.
He needn’t have told me anything more. I got it then. I get it now. Anyone who has ever identified strongly with a place and time gets it.
Everyone wants to be able to go home again.
He lives outside of Philly. Decided it would be great to take his son—who was just a bit younger than mine—to the Cubs/Phillies game at Wrigley Field. They had taken in the game the day before—and he was feeling nostalgic. He wanted to show his son the house he remembered.
He wasn’t here for a lot of his childhood, ironically. Just a few years, before his parents bought a home in the “newer” part of town. “They always regretted that decision,” he shared. “They said they never should have moved from this house.” It was telling that he had no desire to show his son the other house or neighborhood. One was not like the other.
I’ve written before about how drawn I was to this house. To being part of a true neighborhood. This gentleman told me his parents have come back to see the old timers on my block a couple of times in the past decade—but they never had the gumption to knock on my door. That’s the kind of neighborhood I live in—the kind you want to come back to visit.
I loved his stories. My son’s bedroom used to be shared by this man and his sister. He showed me where the beds were and marveled at how much space the dormers had added to the room. We laughed at the stair mishaps in each family—his brother had broken his leg on the stairway. My eldest nearly did the same when he dove from the top stair, yelling “to infinity and beyond” during his Buzz Lightyear wannabe years.
He was able to show his son a bit of his former life, and I could tell how happy it made him. He really wasn’t much younger than I was—and I know how much it meant to me that my boys had spent holidays in the home I grew up in.
I told him the candy shop was still open downtown—the one that would have been here when he was young. He said he and his son would walk to it, for old time’s sake—and asked me if his old school was still standing so he could visit on the way. But, before he walked out the door, he asked if he could take a photo of my living room. He knew his parents would want to see it. And he complimented me again on how lovely he thought the house was. My house is not large, folks. It’s got scratches and dents, for sure. But it is well loved. And I try to surround us with objects of beauty. I think most people feel the energy when they enter. I am thankful each and every time I walk in these doors.
I hope if my boys ever want to come back as middle-aged men, that the house still stands. That there is a woman willing to let them walk down memory lane. And that the energy remains. It’s a house you can feel in your bones. A house that contains stories of multiple families and generations.
Which makes it a home.