Monday, December 21, 2009

The Backwards Frontwards House

Today after work I went to visit a friend. That in and of itself is not particularly remarkable, but what made it a little unusual is that she was at the family homestead, where she and her siblings grew up.  When I was little I made many, many, many treks to that house to play; usually on a Sunday afternoon after church.  I knew that house very, very well, as well as all the people who called it home.

One of the things I thought was SO COOL about this house was that it was MY house.  Their house was a two story white bleeding brick.  My house was a two story white bleeding brick.  In fact, the entire floor plan was identical, except backwards.  In my house, you walked in the front door, and the staircase was on the left.  In her house, you walked in the front door and the staircase was on the right.  I realize to any slightly busy grownup, these factoids aren't all that exciting.  But when you're eight, and your friend's house is YOUR house (only backwards) it's cool in a million inexplicable ways.

Driving out there tonight, it occurred to me that the last time I visited my backwards friend's house (OK, more correctly my friend's backwards house.  But I like the other one as well) was probably thirty or thirty five years ago.  I had to look up the address, and remind myself how to get there.  But as I pulled into the neighborhood I started nodding and saying, "Oh yeah.  I remember this...And take the curve...Somewhere on the right.  THERE'S MY HOUSE!"  What a wonderful flood of memories.

So we visited in the backwards house of my friend, except now we were grownups.  We weren't confined to bedrooms or basements (perfectly acceptable back in the day, I might add).  We visited in the front room like real live adult type people.  It was funny.  It was fun.  I still felt like I was eight and sitting there was just a little forbidden.  And it was cool.

We all put such an attachment on places -- physical structures -- that hold importance to our lives.  Although my family moved out of the frontwards house some twenty-five years ago, every now and again I'll drive past it, just to remember.  It's still a white bleeding brick house, and when I look at it, I see my bedroom on the second floor, the front yard where we played with floppy-eared not-quite-purebred Scottie puppies, and the driveway where many a game of "Horse" took place, and where a thousand tennis balls were hit against the garage door.  My frontwards house was also the place where on many a Sunday afternoon, my friend came over after church, and we played in the basement or the bedroom.  And it was cool.

Surprisingly, I don't miss the frontwards backwards house.  It functions as the backdrop to my memories and sets the stage for the countless stories I have about my adventures growing up.  It's nice to drive by it on occasion and see it again, albeit at 25mph.  It was especially nice today, after such a long time, to go once again inside the backwards frontwards house and spend time with the people who were a part of my adventures then (some might say partner in crime... I might plead the fifth) and who are still a part of my life now.  It's not the house that's important.  It's the people inside it who welcome you in, who invite you to sit down, and who share your memories and help you make new ones.

In this season of hustle and bustle and holiday travel, having that special frontwards backwards family home isn't a requirement; after all, it's just a house.  The special part is the people inside that share your stories.  Even if none of them live in the backwards frontwards house anymore, when you do see them (and hopefully recognize them), you understand they're still the same family you've always known and loved.  And it doesn't matter if you're eight or much, much older than's still very, very cool.

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