I believe in the nostalgia of home. Whether it be a country, a particular town, or an actual dwelling, that place you once called home as a child is warm and comforting. It calls you back with some unseen life force, like green sea turtles returning to their natal beach to lay their clutch.
My parents’ first home purchase was a run-down three bedroom A–frame with one and a half baths in Troy, New York. It cost $17,000 in 1970. The kitchen was so narrow it wouldn’t even fit a table. My father built a counter than ran the length of the room and our small family of four sat facing the wall like we were at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s. My bedroom was paneled dark brown, and the basement was always damp and rodent prone. It was small and quirky but I loved that home.
I walked to school, came home for lunch, and learned to ride my bike coasting down the neighbor’s driveway. I rollerskated down the sidewalk, pelted walkers with sticks as I hid high in tree branches and kissed Teddy Lombard in a fort behind his house. I belonged there, safe and loved.
In a weird twist of geography, the people from whom we bought the house moved several blocks away but then purchased the house next to us a year later. This led to some strange circumstances. Fritz, their scruffy boxer dog, didn’t quite grasp that he no longer lived in our house. He often came into our yard to play with us and when we went inside he would stand on the back porch and whine to be let in. “Go home, Fritz,” became our mantra to him.
Once, Fritz pawed open the unlocked back door (no one locked their doors back then) during a roof-shaking thunderstorm in the middle of the night, nearly scaring the stuffing out of us. We found him in the middle of our kitchen, rain dripping from his droopy jowls, blinking his big brown eyes in innocence. To Fritz, our house would always be his home, warm and safe.
When we wanted to sell that house, a nursing home offered to buy it and the surrounding houses on the block. My parents balked; they wanted it to go to a family to enjoy like we had for those seven years. A family did buy it, but they later sold it to the nursing home.
Like Fritz, that home kept calling to me. For years, I dreamed that I saved that house from certain demolition by moving in and renovating it. In my dreams, the house is always more luxurious and spacious than it was in real life.
The house wasn’t torn down, and ironically, my grandmother spent her final years in the nursing home that was eventually built behind it. I still go back to see that house. Whenever I do, I feel that tug of longing that makes me wistful for a time that was.