I almost missed it completely. It looked so different, so foreign. The whole block did, really; smaller in scale, stilted. Hard to put a finger on the reason; maybe it was the 8-10 years since I’d been back. But it seemed more than that; a heavier difference. Like a storm cloud blocking the sun.
The house, in particular, was hard to recognize. I had to look several times – squint, even – to really make sure it was ours. The street and number were the same, but so little resembled our old house it was challenging to connect the memory. I sat in front of it in my car for a good several minutes; taking it in, still stunned. I was urged to move on and keep driving, for fear that someone would be concerned about the strange woman staring at their home; though I did circle back two more times to view it. My mother had asked me to take a picture for her, but I couldn’t bring myself to photograph the building that now stood. “I won’t show them this,” I thought. They didn’t need to view the shell of the house that we once knew.
They didn’t need to see, for instance, that the color – once a bright and cheerful yellow – is now a faded and untended blue. That the tree from the front yard that shaded us all those hot summer days with its giant limbs and wafting leaves is now just a stump with a tin bucket covering the remnants; our very own Giving Tree come to pass. That the Japanese maple on the corner, which my father loved so much he’s planted a Doppelgänger in every house he’s lived in since (as has his daughter), no longer exists either. That the garage windows have been boarded up; callously shouting at passers-by to keep their distance. That the bushes aside the house that were once used for secret forts are so overgrown and unruly, they practically reach the edge of the street. That the original fence – the strong guardian of the back yard that kept out the unwanted while supporting the weight of cats and squirrels and wild-eyed teens climbing over to seek summer freedom – still stands, but is now dilapidated and riddled with jagged boards too easy to breach. It does not look loved, nor cared for, nor lived in. It looks lost and forlorn; fallen victim to a harsher time.
Odd though, how much easier the vast difference in appearance makes it, for me. The memories of my house, as I knew it, now remain pristine. They won’t be marred by small comparisons of years of changes gone by. I don’t have to see my beloved home slowly slip away; it’s simply vanished into my memory and been preserved there indefinitely. I can just close my eyes and go home whenever I like; nary a storm cloud in sight.