You walk in, and in that utter quiet that is the house, you sense those that are absent, who inhabited this place but exist now as only ghosts of your past, living on the breath of memory.
The furniture has changed, the multi colored shag of the 70's replaced by soft, neutral carpet that covers hardwood floors that would show the scuffs and tracks and roadways of countless Matchbox and Hot Wheel cars that careened across the floor with no quarter and no cautions. The couch you spent countless hours on, curled up with legs underneath you as you read hundreds of books, is long gone.
Behind the house, where deer once wandered down from the mountains, delicate and touchable as smoke, leaving only tender footprints in the flower beds to mark their passing, stands a Big Box Mart or two, that blot out what is left of the timber. I remember my Dad watching them cut down the trees, with eyes like pieces of a broken plate, steadfast in his refusal to sell, as most of the neighbors did. This house is his home, a dwelling where he raised his kids and outlived two beloved wives; a place he will only leave when he ceases to breathe, the fight in him, only then, having flown away.
A refrigerator covered with childlike artwork and ribbons is now bare, the wall behind it in the family room now covered with commendations and more complex ribbons, pictures of airplanes and submarines and the children of the family, proudly swearing an oath to their country in a solemn moment of choice and service, each and every one of us.
Many of the memories there are happy ones, some are bittersweet. There are the small ceramic things my Mom made, still carefully dusted years after she was gone. There is the little bear by my bed, showing the signs of wear from when I came home from the hospital without my daughter and cried myself to sleep in his fur night after night, while my Dad listened, helpless in the next room, wanting only for me to be happy again.
We can't go home again, but we do. It's changed, but it's not. It is still the warmth and fragrance of a Mother's kitchen, a flag flying our front, old tools in the garage and the skills your Dad passed on. It's a big brick chimney, four walls and a few family members that gather and remember those that are gone.
I stand outside the front door, hearing hushed voices, hand on the doorknob, hesitant to open the door to every memory, hesistant more, to leave it behind. I stand there silently, my presence not detected by dogs forever silent, motionless, trying to blend in with the house, the dark wood and trees, listening to the living presence of a home, all the lives and love and heartache that went into it, that formed these four walls, that formed me.
I open up the door and go on in