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Have You Re-Visited Your Childhood Home? What If It's Gone?

In behavior on February 21, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Mexico APTNice Wall Street Journal piece ran this weekend about re-visiting your childhood home(s).

It’s a poignant thing, often clouded with nostalgia. For some, it’s simply impossible.

My sweetie, who grew up in Santa Fe, was a Baptist minister’s son. His Dad’s church and their adjacent home were both torn down to make way for the city’s Georgia O’Keefe Museum, opened in 1997. He has often reminisced about riding his bike alone as a little boy through Santa Fe’s streets, so I was eager to see where he grew up. But it’s gone.

When we visited the museum, he stood at the north end of one room there: “This used to be my bedroom,” he said. How odd that hundreds of people, possibly thousands by now, have stood  — having no idea that this space once housed a family and a congregation — where he once slept in his little boy pajamas and dreamed his young dreams.

Only the apricot tree, the one his mom made jam from, still stands in the museum’s tiny courtyard. His parents are long-dead, so the memories of that home now reside in his head and those of his two older sisters.

The old three-story brownstone apartment building at 3432 Peel Street in Montreal where I lived with my mom — where I came home night, alone, at the age of 12 to find that we had been robbed — is long-gone. The white brick house in Toronto, on a busy corner where I lived while in high school, is still there. I wave to it each time I go north.

I went back, in May 2005, to the apartment building in the Mexican city of Cuernavaca, at the corner of Copales and Naranjos, where my mom and I lived when I was 14.  I used to walk up a short, steep hill to my school, where I spent too much of my day staring out the windows at two distant volcanos, one per tall, narrow window.

In that building, my bedroom window looked directly into a next-door field full of cows. Surely, by 2005, it had changed. Surely, by then there was some flashy high-rise or a new house or…

Nope, still a field full of cows. The photo with this post shows our Cuernavaca building; we lived on the third floor.

What a soothing pleasure that was to find a spot from my childhood so unchanged. The nearby waterfall, Salto San Anton, was of course still there — and now three pottery candle-holders from a store on that street sit on my terrace wall every summer, a tangible reminder of one former home now gracing my current one.

Have you gone back in search of a childhood home? What did you find?

  1. I live about 15 minutes away from my childhood home, so I see it quite often. The huge tulip tree we used to climb as kids didn’t make it through the latest blizzard and I absolutely HAD TO get some pictures of its, now horizontal, majesty. Many days were spent on it’s lower branches – I never did like heights much – dreaming of other places.

    I’ve been thinking about that house a lot today as I’ve just received word that my favorite aunt is on death’s doorstep. Some of my happiest memories are of her and my six cousins visiting us from Michigan. She and her daughter came down for my mother’s 50th birthday (mom’s been gone for 6 years now) and I’ll never forget how my mom ran across the yard when she realized her sister was there! Mom was 4’1″ tall, with short little legs but, man, she could fly! We had great fun that day, at that house, in that yard, under that tree.

    Mom never wanted to leave that house. But the neighborhood became unsafe so we convinced her to sell and move into an apartment. The tree is gone. Mom is gone. And now my Aunt Dottie, mom’s favorite sister, is going too. Someday the house will be gone and I guess that’s life.

    I remember it all. I will remember it all until I go.

  2. Mark, thanks so much for sharing these powerful memories. I envy you a little being so near your home all the time; I live in NY and my childhood ho
    es are far away in London, Toronto, Montreal and Mexico. I was talking to my Dad about our house in London and my memories of it’s garden shed. We left when I was five, so those are early memories.

    It is hard to let go of people and the places filled with their energy. The subway in Toronto goes aboveground right past one of my Granny’s former apartment buildings and I always smile and think of her as it does. She died in 1975 and I miss her still.

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