The other week I received a notification that my brother had posted a link on my Facebook wall. I assumed it was going to be an inappropriate meme or Spongebob clip because that’s 98 percent of what we discuss. We’re obviously sophisticated siblings. I clicked on the notification and instead of the usual cheesy Buzzfeed article it was an unexpected tug at my heartstrings.
My hometown newspaper, The Herald Mail, posted an article on their website about a couple of properties soon to be demolished. Both buildings were referred to as eyesores and even I couldn’t deny their shitty curb appeal. With boarded up windows, chipped paint, and obvious structural damage, to try and fix up the properties at this point would be like polishing a turd. Still, I couldn’t help but feel a weird nostalgic sadness wash over me because I grew up in these dilapidated dwellings.
I was eight years old when my parents divorced and my maternal grandmother passed away from cancer shortly after. Seeing as how my mom lost her husband and mother almost at once, she craved a fresh start somewhere new. I didn’t know much about where we were going except that we were moving to a state called Maryland and that we’d get to eat crab cakes all the damn time. The red brick building pictured above was where my mom was newly employed as a florist.
We lived a few streets down in a townhouse right between the local hospital and Suns baseball stadium. Our street was relatively quiet when there weren’t fireworks booming over at the baseball games or helicopters flying to and from the hospital. We walked a lot those first few years mostly because it saved us money on gas. The walking allowed us to get to know our new town and the three of us would find all the alternate routes to keep our journeys adventurous. After a while we moved out of the townhouse and into the big white house that is now currently on death row.
With my mother working right next door to where she lived, this gave her an opportunity to work occasional evenings. She would sometimes enlist me as a model for her floral creations. Some might say it was so she could see how the arrangement would look photographed. I say it was because she assumed a nerd like me would never be wed so it was the only time she’d ever get to see me hold a bouquet.
When I wasn’t next door at my mom’s workplace making my own bouquets out of her scraps or biting into juicy tomatoes in the stores tiny produce section, I was playing in the big white house. It was massive compared to our previous tiny townhome and my brother and I would run around the hallways every chance we got. Both of our bedrooms were upstairs and even though they were connected by a door, the echoing wooden walls made him feel miles away. I’d lie awake at night listening to the creaking stairs and stare at the toile wallpaper plastered all around. Sometimes I swore the little people on the wallpaper would move and I’d hide my head under the covers until morning, just in case.
The big white house wasn’t all creepy. We shared many positive memories there until I started middle school. We moved again and I always wondered what happened to the house. Would the tenants after us plant flowers all around like my mom did? Would they decorate the porch with seasonal garland and Christmas lights? Would they know not to plug more than one item into the upstairs guest bedroom outlet or else it would trip the circuit breaker, causing an unwanted trip to the haunted basement?!
It’s been twenty years now since we first moved to Maryland and I haven’t lived in my hometown since I graduated highschool in 2004. I hadn’t seen the old white house until my brother recently shared the article with me. It’s amazing how many feelings, memories, and emotions can develop after looking at a single photo.
I’m sharing my story because soon the house will be no more. Too often we view crumbling buildings as garbage and forget that they contain history. My story in the home only lasted a few years but I can imagine other families experiences within the same walls. I like to think that other children enjoyed playing hide and seek in the secret nooks and crannies as much as I did. I live in the present and am always looking forward to the future, but this house was a part of my past. My past made me who I am.
It’s a great thing that my hometown is giving this old street a much needed facelift. Whatever the property becomes I wish it the best. That is, as long as it doesn’t become a Maaco. We all know what happens when Maaco’s come to Hagerstown. I kid!
Seriously though, if you’re one of my friends reading this or someone who’s looking to be my new best friend I have a mission for you. When the house is finally demolished and if you happen to be passing by, swipe me a brick. Or shutter. Or paint chip. I’m not picky, just sentimental.