I was taking a trip down memory lane the other day and decided to Google Earth all my former houses. What an eye opening experience. The house I lived in right after college has been painted hot pink. The one I lived in after that, which was a total dump with rotting floors, questionable plumbing, and a seemingly incurable cockroach infestation, is now a high-end bed and breakfast. The house I used to own has been stripped of its shrubbery, has a brand new gorgeous front door, and the brick stairway I had labored over so diligently during the course of one hot summer week has been ripped out.
But the most gut-wrenching change was to the best home I ever lived in. Age 7 to 10 was the sweet spot in my childhood. For the first time in my life we weren’t held firmly in the grip of brutal poverty. (Little did I know how brief my vacation from that would be.) And the house we lived in was completely amazing.
Actually, it was a mansion, complete with fireplaces, front and back stairways, a full-sized pantry off the kitchen, a gigantic side porch, and an even bigger front and back yard. It was perched atop a hill, and there was even a secret path through the woods, and lots of trees to climb. My best friend lived right across the street. Essentially it was a kid’s paradise. I had my very own room for the first time, which my mother made the mistake of allowing me to paint, so it was purple.
We didn’t own this mansion. It came with my stepfather’s job, which was managing the industrial park in which it stood. And we had to share the house with a company, something vaguely to do with publishing as I recall, which occupied the front half of the first floor. We had to be quiet during business hours. But still, it was the coolest house ever. I was completely in love with it.
It was after that that everything turned to shit. My stepfather lost the job, we moved to Florida to live in a tent, the abuse began, and the crushing poverty settled back over us like a blanket infected with smallpox. Thus ended what little childhood innocence I was allowed to enjoy.
Needless to say, that house on Climax Heights Road holds a special place in my heart. So imagine my shock when I went to Google Earth and found out the street as I knew it no longer exists. The houses were torn down. Hills were leveled. Buildings were constructed. I contacted my friend who once lived across the street from me, and she confirmed that the area is completely unrecognizable.
Days later, I’m still having a hard time digesting this news. I liked to think that no matter how turbulent my life became, there would always be a place, long ago, far away, that was an oasis, where things were good and safe and calm. My own little Brigadoon.
Sometimes when time marches on, it tramples right over your memories.