A house, a home

It’s taken me a little while to recover from seeing my damaged childhood home on Friday. I’d gotten regular updates on the progress of the reconstruction, but nothing could fully prepare me for how I felt when I walked into the house and found, with few exceptions, no walls, no floors, no ceilings, no fixtures. Also, no lights, no heat and no toilets.

Here is the before-and-after of the first-floor bathroom, the latter of which shows the typical state of most of the house (click either image to see a larger version).

bathroom1      bathroom2

Only the doors and windows are left in their frames in most of the rooms. The kitchen and about half the dining room are intact. The basement was somewhat less damaged because, although most of the water ultimately ended up there, it had no carpeting or plastered walls to be destroyed.

living-room2

This is the living room. The only thing left standing besides the doors and front picture window is the fireplace, but that will probably be demolished and rebuilt as well for aesthetic reasons.

I moved with my parents to this house when I was three weeks old, and lived there until I left for college 18 years later, plus a year or so when I was sorting my life out after college. Now, nearly every surface that I ever touched within those walls has been removed. It will all be rebuilt, of course, and in the end it will be even better than it was before, but how much of the spirit of the house will remain? Will it ever feel like the family home again?

Once you’ve seen your home stripped and exposed like a cadaver in a Bodies Revealed exhibit, it changes your sense of it. You realize how fragile a thing a house really is, and how falsely reassuring that old phrase “safe as houses” is. Earth, air, fire and water all claim their share of domiciles every year.

The water didn’t take this one, just cleared and cleaned it profoundly. It may ultimately be for the best that every surface has been stripped bare so that a whole new energy can now enter this dwelling. The outer walls will help to contain and hold the essential character of the home, and the new interior will, we hope, help promote some changes in our family dynamics that are cleaner, stronger, more serviceable, and more reflective of the present than of the past.

No real or imaginary skeletons were found in the closets when the demolition was done, but like every family, ours has its sticking places, its old conflicts, its dark memories and bad scenes from days gone by that most of the time we never allow to see the light, like the studs behind the walls and the plaster between the lathes. If this flood helps to clear away some of the gritty past for each one of us, it will be a blessing.

My parents live in another house in another city in the same state for most of the year for several reasons ranging from milder weather to easier access to health care providers. My brother, my sister and I all live in our own homes in three different states. None of us gets back to this house as often as we might; my visit there last May by myself was my first in several years because I have no reason to go there if my folks are not there (they needed me to take care of a couple of things at the house for them at that time).

But no matter how far we go away from it, this house will always be home for each of us because that is where we started from.

I am hopeful that a bright new day is coming soon for our family as well as for our house and home.

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4 thoughts on “A house, a home

  1. Emotional stuff.
    We live in a bushfire prone area and it occurs to me each year that this might be the year (there was a particularly bad year in 2009 and a lot of homes were destroyed and a lot of people died) If a fire came our way our very old timber home would not stand a chance. In 2009 the house across the road from us was flattened when a huge gust of wind brought down a large tree. The gust was so strong that it snapped the tree off at its base! My neighbour was in the house at the time and she survived, but when I got over there I feared the worst. It took more than a year for the insurance company to rebuild her house and although she has settled back in I get the feeling that she does not feel the same about her house.

    Houses, homes: they are amazing things.

    Terry

    • Your neighbor was both very lucky and very unlucky at the same time. She might take the view that her house saved her life and now she has returned the favor to it by rebuilding. There is always a silver lining.

      I think that houses have spirits or souls, and they can profoundly affect the lives of those who live in them for both good and ill. We owe it to our homes to care for them as we do for our own bodies, and appreciate them every day for the shelter and comfort they provide. I agree: They are amazing. 🙂

  2. I can’t imagine what you must have felt seeing your former home in that state. We moved frequently when I was growing up, so I never had that sense of a childhood home. You’ll have to make new memories when the house is finished.

    • I think a big housewarming party is already being planned. Lots of iced drinks will likely be served. Maybe we’ll even have an ice sculpture made in the shape of the house. 🙂 We shall celebrate the rebirth of the ol’ homestead!

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