This Old House

Catherine commented on When I think of Home, “I was thinking a lot about what home means, too, as I watch the fire department burn a recently vacated home to clear the lot for develoment. I know it was just an empty building, but it was still weird to think about all the memories that used to be there for someone.”

Empty houses – I mean, seriously empty, not the ones that merely seem so – draw my attention. When I was nine and ten, and we lived in Arvada, CO, there was an old house left on an as-yet-to-be-developed section of the condo complex. It had been stripped down to a shell, and was up on stilts, in preparation for being moved or destroyed, and was probably the most dangerous place for a couple of schoolgirls to be, but my friend Jill and I explored it anyway, treating it like a life-sized playhouse.

There were signs of what it must have been like to live there – remnants of a gorgeous tiled backsplash in the kitchen. Scraps of pastel pink and grey wall paper in the smallest bedroom, and a porch that looked across the road, to the park and creek on the other side.

Later, when I was home from college and working in a bookstore, I'd ride past another house every day on my way to work. It was in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose, and beneath the tangled trees and slithery-looking tendrils of overgrown ivy, there was evidence of a pool and a decorative pond. There's a part of me that wants that house, still, but I don't have a million dollars handy.

I always got the impression it wasn't so much abandoned, as waiting.

Oh if this old house could talk,
What a story it would tell.
It would tell about the good times,
And the bad times as well.

It would tell about the love that lived,
And died inside these walls.
And the sound of the little footsteps,
Runnin' up and down the halls.*

*”This Old House,” Loretta Lynne

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CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 This Old House by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.