I believe inside every human soul there is a house.
I believe this because I restore houses. I’ve done this work all over the world. In pulling up floorboards, I’ve found hundreds of objects once held in the hand: marbles, pocketknives, bobby pins, lost toys, newspapers announcing the end of World War One. Sometimes it’s oyster shells, the lunch leftovers of British carpenters 200 years ago, or a pack of Lucky Strike Greens set down on a high shelf and forgotten years before Pearl Harbor, or a larger copper penny dated 1727 underneath a door-stoop, dropped, I like to think, while paying the milkman. I always put these things back where I found them. They don’t belong to me. They belong to the house.
And it’s not just artifacts you’ll find there, but messages as well, like the one I found under a floor tile: “We built this kitchen in the first year of our marriage. John and Hilary Micheals, June 1948,” or the closet wall on which were scratched in a child’s handwriting the words “CAT AND CITTENS” with a hand drawn arrow pointing to the exact spot. Or the annotated pencil lines on the woodwork marked “Harriet Age 6” “Harriet age 10 1/2” climbing up the doorframe until stopped by puberty. Or, in the mortar of a cellar floor poured 130 years ago, the footprints of a cat.
I believe this universal house lives inside us long after we’ve moved away. Hands up everyone who’s ever dreamed of a house while they slept. In this dusty world you wander down hallways, past rooms filled, let’s say, with antique dolls, old baseball gloves, photo albums, portraits of lives once lived or yet to come, one of which might be your own. It’s an ancient dream, as old as humanity.
No, the houses we once lived in will never forget us. They keep us with them always, under the floorboards or inside the wall of the closet. And we keep them inside that deepest shelter of all, the human soul. That is our house of inner light. Welcome home, friend.
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