that brown house on 118th street

When I think of home as a place, I think of course to my parents’ house. Not the way it is now, with a monochromatic living room and rooms full of stuff rather than people; I think of it the way it was when my brothers, sister and I were children. Back then, it was full of artifacts with a little more pep and life in them. The bookshelf now full of dusty, rarely read books used to house our toys. “Put a toy away after you’re done playing with it,” mom would instruct us to no avail.

I think of Chad’s room, with his Coke collection on the shelves, his 90s-style Biederlack blanket with burgundy, hunter green, and navy blue geometric shapes folded neatly at the foot of his bed. I think of his tiny closet which one day was stuffed with many varieties of polo shirts in popular brands as he became a clotheshorse. I think of Joel’s room – the 101 Dalmations comforter, which later turned into a baseball one. I think of the room Amber and I shared – the yellow floral wallpaper before we peeled it off in pieces. I think of our matching beds and bedspreads. Then we each moved into our own rooms and I got new furniture, and she held onto what we had shared.

I remember our backyard, as it was, not for what it is now. Now, it is stripped – the trees have been removed, our garden boxes are gone. The trampoline remains, but it has no cover, no blue padded edges. It once entertained us for hours as we created our own games, dance routines and Trampoline Olympic events. We used to have this tree that dropped orange berries that we speculated were poisonous but never knew for sure.  When we would swing, we would grab for them, see how many berries we could fetch. There was a bar that dad would do pull-ups on between two trees. There was a hammock between two others.

We had a playhouse dad built for us that Amber and I would play in, making macaroni and cheese by crushing dandelions into Tupperware bowls. We had a two-story deck which we would ride our bikes on, that Joel one day would jump off of onto the trampoline. The lower level had a hot tub without a heater that we spent summers in. We would make whirpools, have dunking contests, sing silly songs and endlessly flip on and off the bubbles. The deck is gone now – “too much maintenance.” It seems that everything becomes too much as we grow older, no one ever considering what is too little.

I lived in that house from the time most of my memories started until I left for college. That place holds all of my childhood memories in its bones, our shrieking voices in its walls. Every time I go back, I think of how it was, and try to remember it that way, when we kids were a part of it, rather than visitors. Although the place is the same, its details have changed with the people in it. It makes me realize that home is not a place. Sure, there is a place where you feel at home, but it isn’t the place that makes it home, it’s the people, the memories, the happenings. The place is just the backdrop.

Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey. 
~Tad Williams

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