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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

Who Says You Can Never Go Home Again?

I know. Going back to your childhood home or the home you visited when you were on vacation from college or back before you got your own place can feel a bit weird--even foreign. You have changed, become more independent. You've made new memories, fresh ones, that tend to eclipse the ones from decades earlier.

But yesterday, after my son found a listing for the home I shared with my family for almost thirteen years from the time I was an infant until we moved to our new home on Walnut Lake, I took an emotional trip down memory lane, surprised at how immediate things felt. The experts say that as we age, we often can't remember what we did or said minutes before ("Where is my cell phone? I just had it!" "I know I hung the keys on the hook, but they're not there.") but can recall events and conversations from decades ago. The older I get, the truer (and might I add frightening) that observation becomes.

The home on Colorado Street in Highland Park, Michigan, is all boarded up. The one tree in front of the house is dying; the lawn looks like it hasn't been seeded for years. The narrow, long entryway leading to the front door seems darker than I'd remembered but remains the perfect spot to bounce a tennis ball against the brick wall in a game of Russian handball. I often played until after sunset when my mother called me in for dinner for the third or fourth time. "It's getting cold," she said.

As I swiped to the next photo of the vestibule, even though stripped of the flower-patterned carpeting in favor of exposed wood floors, I could hear my friends congregating there, talking at full speed about what we might be up to next. They'd left their bikes strewn across the front lawn, unlocked. It was a safer, freer time.

It was when I "climbed" the stairs to the second floor and recognized my now empty bedroom straight ahead, that I felt like the self-assured young girl with so much in front of me-- including Joey, the mysterious boy who lived next door, whom I never saw--not once. Joey didn't go to the public elementary school with the rest of us but to a Catholic school in another part of town. The one window in my bedroom faced what I assumed to be his. But I never saw the shade lifted, not even on a hot, sunny afternoon. I dreamed of him for years.

I stood where my desk would have been. I could see the corkboard on the wall above it with stick pins holding up photos of ballerinas, school papers with "Excellent" scrawled at the top, and mementos from my trip to Memphis and the ski lodge at Boyne Mountain. I loved that corner of the room. It was cozy and all mine. In a family of four kids, personal, private space was at a premium.

HGTV touts "en suite" baths as a must haves. "My" bath featured white porcelain. And it was in the white porcelain tub that I used my father's straight-edged razor to shave--make that, slice--my legs. I didn't have time to grab his shaving lotion so used a bar of soap instead. When my mother saw the bandages plastered up and down my legs and asked what had happened, I told her I'd fallen in the bushes. She was kind enough not to question me further.

My "visit" thrilled me, moved me, reminded me of what had been and the journey I'd taken from there to here. At times, it's been a rough ride; at others, it's been sublime. But it would never have been the same without those thirteen formative years in the house on Colorado Street.


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