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Sometimes our homes leave us first

POSTED: July 26, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The old girl died in a fire in February. We finally buried her this week. She was laid to rest in a landfill.

Before you go getting upset, I’m talking about our house. On a February afternoon a motorist passing by saw flames shooting out of our century-old house.

He called 911 and the firefighters came and did their best. The exterior of the house was largely intact, but inside was a mess. What wasn’t burned was soaked with sooty water. It was a horrible smell — a combination of smells I’ve never encountered and hope I never will again.

The ensuing months have been part recovery and part treasure search. We have found amidst the rubble some memorable items that survived the whole episode virtually unscathed.

Some wooden furniture pieces received a healthy dose of smoke, but were otherwise OK. They are being restored and from all indications will be absolutely beautiful.

But there were other treasures, like the dress my wife wore the day we were married, that were ruined.
The house has only been a part of my life for five years. It is the place my wife and I began our lives together when we got married. It was the house she grew up in and then came back and raised her three children.

Like any house, there were good things and bad things about it. We were trying to fix it up. If you’ve never ventured into the world of fixing an old house, it is not for the faint of heart. But this one had charm and character and we had dreams of restoring her grandeur.

But that all ended one afternoon.

The places we live are so much a part of our lives. I can close my eyes and remember details of places where I have laid my head over the years. Some are places that were truly home.

I’ve heard real estate agents say that when people look at a new house, one of the first things they do is picture in their mind where the Christmas tree would be.

I can remember the Christmas tree in each of the places my family lived in my boyhood. It’s a good memory because it makes me think of happier times with those I love and miss deeply.

I can also remember places that were a stop in the road. Like my first apartment that had avocado-green shag carpet. I remember going to K-mart to buy a shag rake to keep it looking really good.

For a time in my life, I lived in a motor home. I can remember the paneling on which I often bumped my head.

At each of those places, I packed my things and moved away. I was the one who left.

This time, we stood still while the house left us. It’s a different feeling altogether.

They put the house in a dumpster and hauled it away.

Next week, the same machine that scooped up the old house will dig the footings for the new house. The same guy is running it. One week he is executioner, the next a birthing agent.

But before we turn the first scoop of dirt for the new place, we’re going to ask the preacher to ask God to bless it. In doing so, I hope the Lord will let someone be standing there a hundred years from now with memories of a house well lived.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Sundays and only in the print edition on Wednesdays.



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