For a brief moment it was surrealistic. I was up relatively early, grabbed a cup of coffee and went out front to smoke. In the quiet solitude I could hear the echoes of the past, see the shadows of my childhood. This is where I learned how to ride a bicycle, where the Fourth of July block parties were, where the kids would gather on school mornings and walk the two long sub-rural blocks to school. We did not live here when I was born, but by the time I formed my earliest childhood memories, this house has been home and this town, my hometown. That surrealism has now left me, the world around me has caught up. This is no longer the house I grew up in; this town is not the same as it was in the 60s and 70s. For one brief instance, however, I was home again.
Everything changes. This town, this house, indeed the entire world has changed in ways great and small. My parents bought this house almost 50 years ago. At the time most of the houses in this quiet neighborhood bore a striking similarity to one another. No longer. Virtually every home has been remodeled many times – the resemblance these 25 or so homes have to one another is scant. This town, once populated by more apricot trees than people, is now known as one of the premier locations for Silicon Valley millionaires – and today it would take a million dollars to even think about purchasing a home here. It still has the humble character it once had, but probably only to those who can see its shadows from the past.
In that quiet moment I could hear the voices of my childhood friends laughing. We played tag here. We raced our bicycles up and down the street. Some of our favorite hiding places for hide-and-go-seek are still here. But those kids are all gone now. They now have their own children. Some still live in this town, one still lives in this neighborhood in his parents’ old house, but most have moved on. This house looks almost nothing like the house I grew up in, but vestiges remain. My old bedroom is still there. The fireplace mantle is also among the lone holdouts. Many of the remodels occurred while I was still living here, others much after. Old photos, framed and hung on the wall or placed on accent tables, are the thread that holds this 50-year tapestry together.
I have lived in many houses and a few towns since moving away from this town many years ago. In fact, I have not been back here in many months and I have not spent a night here in at least a year, maybe more. But coming back here is always coming home no matter where my home at the time happens to be. I spent more years in this house than anywhere else. And I have likely spent more Christmas mornings here than everywhere else combined. Even my own sons, who did not enjoy the same stability I did growing up, have this home to claim as theirs, for many of my memories were repeated for them right here. This past year has seen more profound, bitter, trying and, at the same time, beneficial change for me than any other in recent memory. But one thing remains constant; this home has been an anchor. Once again, I am home for the holidays.