The house that doesn’t know me

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I’ve been thinking lately about travel and about how so many times it’s not really that we want to return to a specific place but that we wish we could return to a previous time.

As a college student in Springfield, Missouri, I volunteered to be matched with a “grandma” at the retirement complex that sat adjacent to my college campus.  For two academic years, I visited a spinster who wore dentures that clacked when she talked.

She served me ice cream and sliced apples with peanut butter and we drank tea.  We sat at her table in her cramped apartment and I told her all about my life and classes and friends.  She told me about being a school teacher and about her friends–especially the 98-year old artist who lived down the hill.

Every week for two years, I visited her.

Then I graduated and moved away.

A few years later, I returned and appeared on her doorstep to surprise her.

She had no idea who I was.

Awkward.

That’s the feeling I get when I return to the scene of my life from days gone by.  I have been known to drive slowly by the house in Marysville, the one where I lived from ages 12 to 18, feeling like I’m casing the joint, preparing to rob it.

That house doesn’t know me.  If I stood and knocked on that door, it would offer me only a blank look.

Past experience tells me this is true of the small rambler in Whispering Firs, the townhouse in Troutdale, the Cape Cod-style parsonage in Michigan, and every other place where I’ve slept and cooked and planted roots.  I don’t belong to those places anymore.  They don’t recognize me.

It’s impossible to go home again because time travel does not exist except in dreams.

So instead, we stroll past slowly, try to peer into the windows, wondering about the people who inhabit the spaces we used to know so well.  Time has changed the locks.

There’s nothing to see here.  Move along.  You don’t belong.

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The house that doesn’t know me

5 thoughts on “The house that doesn’t know me

  1. Jen says:

    Dear Mel,
    Isn’t comforting to know that although our address may change, and life keeps
    it’s relentless pace, our Father never forgets us.
    Never. Not even for a bit.
    We are pilgrims on a journey to a place prepared
    especially for us. I know what you are talking
    about, and the feelings that go along with such
    insight.
    The best is definitely yet to be…let’s camp out on
    that thought

    Like

  2. Jen says:

    Didn’t mean to send that yet….
    Just wanted to add that not only is there that place
    prepared for us, but also a rest. (Did we mention
    the Feast?!)
    Yeah, these are good thoughts in times like
    these.
    Love and joy to you~
    Jen

    Like

  3. Esther Johnson says:

    I love this blog. I share your feelings about past places and situations. But I also agree with Jen’s thoughts – this is not our home, so it’s okay if we are not recognized or known here.

    However, if you want to relive some of those old experiences, you could come visit me and have tea – I could pretend to be that old woman with the teeth that clacked…oh wait, I AM an old woman, and now have clacking teeth that don’t fit. Hopefully I’d still know you in two years…………….

    Like

  4. oh, so true, so true. Every time I’m down in the Sacramento area I drive past my ancestral home, and know that I can’t just walk on in and plop myself down on the comfy chair in the family room any more, nor will my faithful dog greet me with aggressive tail wagging. No one from the old neighborhood remains, from what I understand. I too have wondered if the current inhabitants think I might be some weird stalker.

    But it was such a great neighborhood, back in the sixties and seventies… the very best. I would love to have just one more day there/then.

    Like

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