I remember driving down the street to the first house we lived in when we moved here. It had been maybe 6 years since I had seen the house or really driven anywhere near it but in that moment I needed to connect with a part of my past. It had been far too long. It was a long drive but it was worth it. You could call this an attempt to get at something familiar before I embarked on what I believed would be the biggest change in my life and to that point – it was. However, I thought it would be the door to open up the whole world to me; a passage to another dimension – well, not literally but going from nearly not graduating high school to leaving for Parris Island in less than forty eight hours – I think another dimension really captures the heart of what I was feeling.
I sat there for nearly a half an hour. Looking back it is a good thing no one noticed because I guess technically I was casing the house. I had no plans to enter but that is what I was doing. Only I was casing its past and not its present. I looked at the palm tree in the front yard. I don’t know what kind it was but it was one that does not get very tall. A short palm perhaps – either that or we did something very wrong when we planted it. I remember trying to help my dad dig the hole but ended up watching him do most of the work. I guess it was hot that day and I was probably whining to get in the pool already – it was this house that taught me to hate swimming pools and I never want another.
I stared at what used to be my bedroom window, corner of the house on the left. The room where I first really started to discover the kind of music I liked. I was already a KISS fan but it was here that I discovered Van Halen, RATT , Huey Lewis and the News and Journey, little did I know the flood gates that would open in the next couple years. It was 1982 I think and all sorts of stuff was pouring onto the street of Los Angeles then and would find its way into my welcoming ears in the not too distant future.
I still love Rock n’ Roll.
I thought about how, in that room, my imagination was captured by words and the ideas of writing. I read the books – I don’t know who wrote them – chronicling the adventures of Encyclopedia Brown – Kid detective. Oh, how I wanted to be a detective. Following Encyclopedia’s lead I made a sign and put it in my window that read “No Case too big, No case too small.” I did not have any customers – you could not see the sign unless you were five or so feet away and I never told anyone I was detective – so, there’s that. I first read The Phantom Tollbooth in that room and marveled at how the author used the ideas of basic writing skills as puns – I learned what those were then too – and I began to see the language in a different way, a new and surprisingly usable way. I started to see how I could use it to say what I wanted it to say.
It was also from this room that I learned that using the language in the right way at the right time – at least the right time for me – could make people laugh. I still remember the first time I tried it in a class when I said “I have a crack” while being taught about the cracks in the ocean floor. Was it inappropriate? Yes. What is juvenile? Yeah, but I was in sixth grade – what d’you expect?
After I left, I drove around a bit trying to remember things about the neighborhood and friends that I had back then but the memories faded the further I got from the house. The anticipation of a new exciting life waiting over the proverbial horizon was calling. I had driven there to reminisce as much as say goodbye. Goodbye to a childhood that had not been what I would have chosen. A childhood forever marred by the sins of my father; a childhood that was marked by multiple moves before I was ten, divorce and break up of my family unit. I wanted to turn the page on that life and embark on something unlike anything I had known.
Today, I find myself wanting desperately to get back there, back to that house, back to that room, back to those times. I want to go…
The thing is, I can’t go back any more than I could change anything were I able.
I guess my point is, and I have said this before in different ways – that our past is there and it is part of who we are. It’s what made us what we are but it does not define us or force us to be what were or remain where we are.
If you were not looking close enough you may have missed it. Did you? Did you see it?
Paul said if you’re in Christ you’re a NEW creature and just in case you missed it the first time he threw it in there again just for good measure at the end “…behold, ALL things are become NEW”
God knows we’re going to hold too tightly sometimes to our pasts but we DON’T HAVE TO.
You are not that girl any more or that guy – so stop living like you are.