My best friend from high school messaged me last night to tell me that she watched as the crew tore down the home I grew up in.
It had been in a fire a few years ago and was sitting vacant, boarded up, ever since. The city finally decided to demolish it.
And damn, if that wasn’t all sorts of symbolic.
She shared with me some of her favorite memories of visiting me at that house, which was very thoughtful and kind of her to do.
She mentioned that the first time she ran away from home, she came to stay with me. I still vividly remember that night, when we stayed up super late, talking about whether or not my house was haunted. There was a little girl’s plaid dress (very fancy and far beyond what my parents’ budget would have allowed for) in my closet that I’m pretty sure never belonged to either me or my sister. The dress kept moving around in my closet; sometimes, it was hanging on a row of hooks on the side of my closet wall but then I would notice a few months later that it was somehow mixed in with my clothes.
We got ourselves good and freaked out that night. It’s funny because I haven’t thought about that story in years. It faded back into that hazy part of my memory where I’m not quite sure if it ever really happened or not.
I also found it interesting to note that the roots of me taking people in when they need a place to stay originate with that very night. I guess I learned how to be that way.
She also mentioned that she remembered eating Breyers peaches and cream ice cream for the first time that night, which she said is still one of her favorites today. That reminded me that I don’t think I’ve seen that ice cream flavor in years, though maybe I just haven’t been looking.
She said that she remembered taking the bus in the morning and getting dropped off by my house so we could walk to school together. And she remembered the family-owned bakery that we would pass on our way to school and that we would often stop in for doughnuts or crème rolls.
And of course, she remembered me talking about and playing my music, always bands like The Cure (I was way into The Cure through all of middle school and high school.) Being black, she was never exposed to any of my kind of music at home. And I’m pretty certain I was the only person she knew who was so into music.
She also mentioned that she really liked our breakfast nook, a small room located at the back of the house behind the kitchen.
But then I got to thinking more about that breakfast nook and I remember also sitting in there with J when we had just started dating. We used to watch episodes of MTV’s “120 Minutes” on VHS tapes and find out more about music that nobody else seemed to know about in our small town.
I remember my younger sister (who was really quite a not-nice person even then) standing in that breakfast nook with her hands on her hips, telling J to get out of “her” house. I know he made a snotty and rude remark back to her but made no effort to leave. They didn’t like each other for years.
And I remember when my friend brought over her first baby to visit us in that house when we were on one of our early trips home from Texas.
Today, her baby is dead, caught in a house fire with his siblings and father when he was 13. Only my friend survived. For years, I was half-convinced that she must have had something to do with the fire because she was the only one to survive it.
Now, my husband is dead too and we share trying to rebuild your life after a tragic, senseless loss in common.
And now that house, which was so formative in my memories, is also gone.
It just feels like everyone and everything that has ever meant something to me is temporary. I know that’s the way life goes but it just makes me profoundly sad.