They tore down the house I grew up in yesterday. I heard it from my sister Debbie who still lives in Rockford. Tore it down. Debbie didn’t call and tell me. That would have been too much like the grim reaper of bad news. I happened to call her and she said.
“Oh, what a day. They tore down the house today, Laura.”
“Were you there by yourself?” I ask her. “Was mom with you?” Now mom figures big in the minds of us kids. We feel the need protect her. To comfort her from all the perils of life. Not that she needed it. I think one of us read a book on aging parents and convinced fellow siblings that we had a ‘situation’ on our hands. Probably Linda. The oldest and self-proclaimed organizer of all family affairs. Yes, we wanted our mother to feel secure that we had this ‘life change’ thing of hers all under control.
But mom had moved on to greener pastures mostly without our help. In the form of an apartment complete with dishwasher AND a garbage disposal, skylights, the works. And Central Air. Yes, mom had moved on. And we were attempting to. Moving on, leaving the safe haven of our childhood. Slapped in the face with the realization that all good things come to an end. Sometimes to a grinding halt because of bulldozers with big teeth.
“No, she wasn’t there, Laura. Probably a good thing. It might have been too much for her. But I did cry on the way home,” Deb confided. I could almost see her chin down, conspiratorially sharing this with me as she spoke just above a whisper into the mouthpiece of the phone. “I almost went over to mom’s to let her know it was going down.” Deb continued, “But I didn’t.”
Deb was right. The news would have been hard for mom. But the truth is if Deb had gone over there, mom may have told her,
“But Deb, you always have the memories . . . No, mom would not break into the song and dance of how you always have the memories. Most likely she would sit with Deb, rocking imperceptibly in her gold swivel rocker. Probably smoking a cigarette. And while she rocked and smoked, Mom would listen. Maybe would have said,
“It will be OK, Deb.” Yes, in her own way Mom would comfort Deb. Maybe even get her a coke.
So, the one-hundred year old albatross of a house had outgrown it’s usefulness. And it was sinking. Each year it sat less and less proud as the foundation sunk further into the rich midwestern soil like a Hummer in quicksand. The blind center bought it and was planning on putting in a garden so their students could smell the flowers. They
wouldn’t be able to see them but they sure could smell them. You should always make the most of what you have.
“It was really hard to watch Laura.” I agreed with Deb. It would have been hard.
“You should have seen those jaws on that bulldozer,” Deb continued. “It ripped the whole front of the house open. In one bite. The whole front of the house was gone in seconds.”
And to top it all of, when Deb got home, she no longer stepped foot out of the car when her neighbor Betty asked how she was. Deb answered,
“Well, not good, Betty. Not good at all.” As she slammed the car door. “They’re tearing down my mom’s house today. This is so hard to take.” Deb was holding together. Pretty much. Betty told Deb to get a camera.
“Get over there and get some pictures. You’re gonna want pictures of that.” Deb and Betty being somewhat out of sync on that particular point.
“How can she even think I wanted a picture of that, Laura?” She asked. “Plaster and stone and the wood from the banisters flying everywhere. It was horrible. Horrible. No, I wouldn’t want a picture of that.” Deb was near breathless by now.
“Oh Laura, you’re lucky you didn’t see it.”
But the demise of the house I grew up in lives on in my own memory thanks to my sister’s descriptive flair. Deb was winding down by now but she said to me,
“ I’ll have a picture of that in my head forever.”
So will I, Deb. So will I.
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