It’s the third house in on the block.  Neatly nestled in between the grammar school and high school.  The police station and firehouse are nearby.  There’s a brook that it faces, and a baseball field behind its fence.  When I was young it was sided with white and decorated with green shutters.  At some point it changed — I don’t remember exactly when, somewhere when I was a teenager.  Now it’s a dark baize and the shutters are a deep maroon red.  I know because I passed it recently — on my way to somewhere else.  There’s a red maple tree out in front, it’s branches long and extended and it’s leaves full and crisp.  That tree’s much taller than I remember it being when we left there — when it was my home.

I’ve called many places “home” since I left there.  A town house and three apartments to be exact — but none have ever come close to being the home that that house was.  Lately, it feels as if my home has been calling me back to it.  I still revisit it in many of my dreams, it’s vibrant and rich, and feels so real every time I go there.  When I think about it — there are so many powerful  yet stranded and disconnected memories…

I remember playing with my toys in the shaggy blue carpet of the playroom my parents set up for me.  Years later it would become an office — the place where I’d write my first three screenplays, and imagine what those movies would some day look like.  Even then, I could take a break in between scenes and curl my toes in that carpet — remembering what it was to be a child, with all it’s promise, potential, and imagination.

I remember the unfinished basement — threatening and scary as a young child, except for the nights my father would play his drums after a long day of work.  Was probably his way of escaping the thoughts of a stressful day — it made the entire house feel as though it was alive.

The backyard, especially in the summers.  When I was still very young, I remember my Mother allowing me, and two of my friends to dig a great hole all the way in the back.  They heard a rumor that we could find China, but I wanted to discover dinosaur bones.  All three of us would be disappointed, but not as much as my father how would have to fill our mess up.

In later years that backyard would become the place we’d throw parties and grill food.  We’d hop the fence and go out to the field behind it and play football games or shag fly balls.  There was nothing better than waking up on a Saturday or Sunday — all the windows open, the smells of breakfast and fresh coffee downstairs and the sound of an aluminum bat driving baseballs into the outfield.  It was a great way to start those summer days every weekend.  Every once and a while I’d find a random baseball had made its way back there, by the time we moved out of that house…we had a lot of them.

I think often of nights sitting out there by candlelight with my friends, laughing and talking…I think of the night we handed out the tapes of the first film we did together — signing our names to the cassette boxes — imagining a future fulfilled by our dreams, and one all shared together.  After High School, those friendships slowly taper off and peel away.  I’ve been more fortunate than most to hang on to many of my closest friendships from growing up — but not all, and there’s certainly some of them that I miss and think about often.

Inside I remember the old radiators that used to bang, pop, and hiss at the beginning of every winter.  I remember my cat sleeping on or next to them.  If I walked by he’d look up lazily and yawn, maybe roll over and stretch.  He had a great way of bringing peace to me as a child, no matter what else was going on.  It’s funny and strange how a pet can become such a friend, the unspoken bond you create with them, their innate understanding of your moods and frustrations.   Some people believe that our pets create some kind of inseparable bond with us, a guide and compass for us.  He still shows up in that house sometimes when I visit it in my dreams, and those encounters are always so visceral that when I wake up — for a moment, I feel as if he was still really alive.

I remember saying goodbye to him before he was taken to the vet for the last time — he fought through failing kidneys for a long time.  I was proud of him.  But when I said goodbye to him that day for the last time his eyes told me that he needed to give up.

I remember the way my grandfather used to come in through the back door, always loud, smiling and whistling some song only he knew.  The energy in the house would always change when he entered — warmer, brighter — some people just have that around them.  When you’re a child you notice these things more than when you’re an adult.  It’s a shame what time of life does to our senses and perceptions.

And I remember vividly the last time he was at our house, early April — by himself and without my grandmother.  Jovial, open, enigmatic.  Laugh louder than other times, vibrancy greater.  He looked back one last time before he walked out the back door, and he smiled — he had a great smile, wide and bold.  For a man that could sometimes be so serious, when he smiled you could find the child inside of him.  That was the last time I’d see it.

After college ended, I was so focused on myself and my new career and all the goals it would carry with it that I feel like I missed much of what was going on around me.  As my parents struggled to sell the house and move to something more manageable I wasn’t there mentally, emotionally, and most of the time physically.  At the time I felt inaction was wrong, reflection an impediment, I needed to keep moving — forward.  What took hold of me in that short time after college I feel like has never let go — except for disparate and fleeting moments where I can see through life and read my own as if it were a storybook.  This is one of those moments.

The last few things I remember in detail was when the house was broken into and we were robbed.  A stranger took jewelry and heirlooms from us, things that can’t ever be replaced or recreated.  My bedroom was spilled out onto the floor.  Clothes, old souvenirs, pictures, and even letters from girlfriends — all strewn and scattered.  He had dumped all of the dresser drawers out to look through their contents.  Going to sleep that night was impossible, thinking of the fact that someone was in there — looking through your life.

Eventually my parents sold that house, and moved onto the next chapter of their lives.  Me along with them but only for a few months.  Once they were settled, I never saw my Mother happier — a new life.  They both loved that house — but it was time to move forward. I barely remember the morning I left it for the final time, it was late summer and a rainy morning — I didn’t have time for it, I needed to get to work.

When I look back now, I think about how awkward it feels to realize someone else is living there.  There is something so extraordinary about the home you grow up in.  And the feeling of nostalgia and connection I have for that house doesn’t make me sad, but instead humbles me, it makes me grateful — for the people I was surrounded with, for the love I always came home to — no matter what.

It was always home.

~ by Dan Fabrizio on May 28, 2012.

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