When I was a kid, we’d pile into the station wagon on Sundays, armed with a box of Hostess Chocolate Donettes, and go on a tour of the houses my dad had keys to. He was a real estate appraiser and, whether he was supposed to or not, would take us through the different homes to “oooh” and “aaaahh” at the features each had. I remember staircases that seemed massive, carpet that seemed more lush than any I’d felt before, doors with etched glass so elegant it seemed waaaaaaay beyond the reach of anything I’d ever be able to acquire.
Remembering those homes now, I choose to hold on to the idea that they really were something special, though I’m sure that if I visited any one of them today, they’d seem much less grand. But I guess adulthood does that to you, doesn’t it? We often have the realization that things we once thought were awesome, are mediocre at best.
Last year I went back to the home in Washington state that I will always consider my childhood home. The memories I have of it are huge. In my mind’s eye, I can see my siblings and I playing “Can’t touch the ground” (played just as it sounds—we’d have to jump from couch to chair to table to whatever we could, without touching the ground at all), “Scrounge it” (someone would throw candy or money onto the floor and the rest of us had to wait until the person said “Scrounge it!” Once said, we all scrambled to collect the goods from the floor—whatever we scrounged, we got to keep), “Hot Lava”—pretty sure everyone knows that one. I remember all of us lying around, listening to records. One in particular was an instrumental polka on a beautifully marbled yellow, red, black, green, and blue vinyl. Pretty sure one of the sides had the stickiness of an Easter jellybean that went unfound. At any rate, we’d listen to that all the time, dancing around the living room as it cheerily played. We spent many long days with neighbor kids in the woods across the road, playing in and near the creek that ran through. It was heavenly.
Going back to that house with kids of my own, I was, I admit, a little taken aback. While it was lovely, it's been painted, landscaped, and lived in by another family for over 25 years. It was physically totally different than the image I’d retained in my memory. But its familiarity was still there. As my family and I stared at the house from the long driveway, one of the fuzzy little caterpillars I remember from my childhood wandered along the pebbles near our feet, as if to say, “Hey, I remember you!” And although I know we’d never met before, it was a sweet reminder of the fun I had there as a child.