Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P is for How You Look At It

I'm doing the A-to-Z Blog Challenge.

Today is for P, and P is for PERSPECTIVE.

A few years after earning my high school diploma, I got hired to be an assistant librarian at the school from which I graduated. 

The first time I walked into the building as a non-student I couldn't get over how small it seemed.

The corridor no longer stretched on for a mile. The classrooms no longer felt like a theater. And the gym...? How did a gym that tiny ever contain all of the hopes and dreams of the athletes who once competed there? 

My childhood home present day.
While the feeling left me perplexed, I eventually got used to the new size of my environment, and I didn't think about it again until a couple of years later, during a visit to the farm on which my dad grew up.

In my many-years of absence, it too had shrunk.

I couldn't help but wonder what had happened in my brain in childhood to make me think these places were so enormous.

The back yard present day.
And since the places I still regularly visited -- my church, my folks' house, the mall -- never seemed any smaller, did it perhaps mean these places had, in fact, shrunk?

I eventually chalked it up to a type of cognitive compartmentalization, a strange phenomenon that caused my brain to interpret those places and their potential effect on my future as something larger than life.

This thought weighed heavily on Sunday as I helped my Dad and my sister dispose of some old branches on a wood pile across the road from my folks' home.

Walking back with my sister, I looked at the place where I grew up from a new perspective. From a couple hundred yards north, my childhood home didn't seem so large. In fact, it looked downright small and distant.

And then it hit me.
Under construction 1970

Soon, this place will shrink too; it will become small and distant, like the other places from childhood I've tried to revisit.

You see, after nearly 50 years, the house my parents have called home will soon become someone else's.

My parents are planning to move. They put in a bid on a house better suited for a couple whose mobility has become a challenge.

I feel a bit silly, but quite honestly, I cry when I think about walking out the door the final time.

A big part of me wants to take the new owners aside -- whoever they may be -- and make sure they understand how big this place really is in my mind.

The front of my childhood home
circa 1980.
They need to know about the little country school that once sat where the house now sits and, if you know where to look, you might still find dimples in the lawn where the school's outhouses once stood.

They need to know about the blood, sweat and tears my Mom and Dad put into the house when they built it.

They need to know how the giant cottonwood across the way once held a treehouse and the overgrowth to the north covers a dirt pathway that once connected to the highway. A spring storm washed out the bridge back in the early 80s.

The back of the house circa 1980.
They need to know how the south road leads directly into a swamp and how the blackened stump partway down is all that's left of an enormous tree that got hit by lightning when I was just a baby.

They need to know that, no matter what it looks like now, the downstairs bedroom will always be "the blue room" because it once had blue shag carpet and light blue walls and the office will always be "the purple room" for the same reason.

They should know how the antiques dealers used to come to my Dad's woodshop in back when their prize finds needed a little work and how many shelves, tables, cedar chests and chairs he sawed and glued and finished.
(To the new owners: If you find his fingers beneath a pile of sawdust out there, just leave them. The rest of him will be along eventually. His last wishes are to be propped up in that shop. You read that in the fine print of the disclosure agreement, right?)

The North "Road"
They need to know that our momma cat had kittens under the dilapidated shed out back and how my sisters sat on the stairs and cried the day our dog Shaggy got run over.

I want to tell them how my two oldest sisters used to battle over the mirror in the downstairs bathroom every day before school, how one would play Rick Springfield and the other would play The Human League and how posters of Styx, Duran Duran and Van Halen used to cover the walls in the downstairs bedrooms.

I want to tell them about the Christmases, the birthdays, the reunions, the over-nighters with friends, the laughter and the tears that we shared in that house.

The Fort
And I hope whoever buys it has children so they can stay outside after dark and catch fireflies like I used to when my cousins came to spend the night. The back yard is perfect for catching fireflies.

There are so many stories I want to tell them, but to someone else, that's all they will ever be -- just stories. But to me and my family, they're a lifetime of memories.

And looking back at all of them, I have no doubt this place will someday be like my high school and my grandma's farm. It will be much bigger in my mind than it is in real life because it has to be. All of those memories won't fit in anything less.

At least, that's how I see it.

Kathryn Harris is an award-winning journalist and author of The Long Road to Heaven. 


Sue said...

Enjoyed your perspective. It reminded me of the film Marley and Me in places, only much more real.

Amanda Fleet said...

It's always hard to move away after being somewhere for years - especially a place you grew up in. In 50 years, maybe the new owners will be thinking the exact same things though!

Jill said...

This home has such good memories to me! I remember Kathy's sisters putting me in my first (and only bikini) Listening to to Styx records in the furnace room, watching "Revenge of The Nerds" on satellite TV! AND seeing MTV for the first time!