Tuesday, April 14, 2015



I had to visit my past to prepare for my future. Call it what you will - closure, curiosity. I needed to visit that place one last time.

It had been six incredibly long and impossibly short years. Almost to the day.

When I dream of places from my real, not imagined, past, I am often standing in the garden of 451 John Kay Road.

Sophie and I drove by our former home on Sunday. It stands empty. Again. Three families. Three foreclosures. Is the house cursed?

We peeked in the windows. They painted over the soft green walls. Tan. Not bad, but not green. Our green. The Frank Lloyd Wright inspired light fixtures were gone. I knew we should have stripped the place inside and out when we left in 2009.

We explored the yard. It seemed smaller, encased in more fencing than was there when we lived here. Funny, too, how not pushing a mower can shrink a yard.

Here is what we learned - we left our mark on the place.

I stood where our garden had been. It had been lush, abundant, verdant. Then overgrown and drying out. Ever changing.

"I dream of standing in this spot."

The only thing that remains of the vegetable and herb garden is a bedraggled rosemary bush. It retains some of its green, holding firm at the edge of the slope.

"This," it says, "is where the herb garden mingled with phlox and roses, rescued holllyhocks, and Johnny jump ups. Where turf wars between basil, tarragon, sage and thyme raged under the blazing sun. This is where the zinnias encroached. Unstoppable. Here were the boulders brought up the hill by wagon as you pulled and reluctant children pushed. There. Oh, right there, was a glorious clematis climbing its trellis toward the vast, blue sky. Reaching for nothing but show."

Next to the house was a dry creek. I'd gathered hundreds of small stones from the field in front of our house and created the bed. I planted foliage. Anchored by a butterfly bush there were sedum and grasses. Liriope. Lambs ears. Hostas, a bleeding heart and columbine. Ivy to spread out under the back deck. I'd attempted one small, spreading evergreen.

Unchecked, that small evergreen became a monster threatening to overshadow the entire side of the house, everything else struggling to grow in its shadow and most things now long gone.

Variegated privets, planted because I thought they were pretty and because I could afford them, had grown massive and now stand sentry next to the driveway. Others crowded out the neighboring ferns, heuchera and hostas and now obscure the kitchen's bay window. Still more privets (they were on sale), planted in the former, fruitful compost heap (the best watermelon and cantaloupes I ever tasted grew directly from it) sucked up those nutrients and tower over what was once the outermost edge of the vegetable garden.

"I wonder if any of the self-sewing zinnias ever make an appearance?"

The apple and peach trees are gone. Who would do that?

The wisteria that I'd been warned against planting seeks revenge, pulling at the back deck. The railroad ties, once the perch for pots drifting riotous color, now suffer the indignity of supporting a makeshift deck at the bottom of the stairs, gray paint peeling and forlorn.

I stood where the garden once spread across the ground.

"I dream of this spot. I stand here and look toward the house."

This is now.
For a moment they are there. In the kitchen. I can see them through the bay window. Three children watching the small TV mounted up on the wall and munching some snack they put together without my help.

A swallow swooshes by and I look away.

When I look back the vision is gone. The house is a blank slate again. Another family will come. More lives will be lived here. But not our lives. Our lives have shifted and fractured and we have scattered. We are scattering. Life is change and we are changing. This change is good and we each welcome and fear it.

I snap off a bit of the rosemary bush and carry it away with me.


  1. Damn, your writing slays me every time.

  2. So lush & beautiful - both the words & images they create. Thank you for sharing this gorgeous piece of writing that so perfectly captures such a poignant moment.

  3. Oh my, very moving. I loved this. Makes me think of our old house where I lived from age 14 on and my parents lived in until my dad's death and my mother moved into senior living... I still drive by to see if her roses are still there, or if the peonies bloom.

  4. As I struggle to get the house in the other state ready for the market, I miss my garden. Yesterday, one of the contractors, the one there to refinish the tub and the counter tops, improvements I longed for and will never get to even see in person, texted me that he had been in the back yard and I "must have had quite a green thumb". He wrote of snooping through the containers and pots to see what I had grown and this irritating epoxy slinger had the wherewithal to offer me condolences for my loss. That - combined with this post - and I'm now sitting in the common room of the place where I'm working today and weeping. Thanks, Lisa (and yes there's a little sarcasm in there too.) ;)

  5. This piece made me cry. When my parents sell my childhood home, a piece of my past will depart, too.

  6. That's where you all were when we first met, my friend. It was a house filled with dreams and surrounded by love unfolding. None of that has gone.

  7. Such deep poignancy. Sometimes it's best to only go back in our memories, where the vagaries of real life can't intrude. Other times, we just have to see for ourselves so we can move on.

    I was so glad to see a new post from you. I hope you'll keep writing here.

  8. Evocative and elegaic.

    (I visit childhood homes only by Google these days. Several of them have been demolished. There was a peach tree in one back yard, climbable by 6 and 7 year olds. Everything changes.)

  9. So descriptive, so intense. I could be there, felling it, reading this.

  10. You've just explained why I'm never going back to our old neighborhood in Omaha.

  11. i met you here, in your garden, your busy kids keeping you busy too... i don't know how i lost you but i did... moving does that, even virtually... but i too remember your stories of that little house. xxx


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