Monday, November 21, 2011

You Can't Go Home Again

When I visit the New Hampshire/Maine seacoast, either with Jeannine or by myself, it has always been my ritual -- usually when leaving -- to drive over to Dover, NH, and cruise past the house we rented and lived in for two years. It's a sentimental journey, for many reasons -- among them are the fact that this house was the first place where we lived together, where the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were created, and where we were married, in the small backyard in the summer of 1983… a ceremony presided over by a local Justice of the Peace, and attended by enough friends and family to almost fill the backyard (like I said, it was small).

Here's the house as it looked back then.

In the last couple of years, the house had not fared well. This past year especially, it has looked somewhat bedraggled, with a few broken windows and an air of abandonment. And there was a notice on the front door, some kind of official town thing that mentioned that it was slated for demolition.

I couldn't understand why. Aside from the broken windows, the house looked as sturdy as when we had lived there. But perhaps there was some underlying structural problem that we were not aware of. I really don't know. I considered calling our former landlady, a very sweet woman, but in case there was some unpleasant story associated with it which would upset her, I decided not to.

So when I drove down Union Street in Dover a couple of days ago, I was heartened to see what looked like a new coat of paint on the house. But… it looked different, somehow… and then, as I got closer, I realized that what I was looking at was the house BEHIND our old house. Our house…

… was gone.

Where it once stood was a rough patch of brown dirt. 

Even the lawn in the small backyard, where friends and family had gathered to see us pledge ourselves to each other on our wedding day, was mostly gone. The small garage -- which we never used -- had also vanished.

I had expected that I would be devastated if that house was torn down. I even gave some thought in recent years to buying it to save the old place, but that really made no logical sense, so I abandoned that completely sentimental plan. But when I saw it was gone, I felt very little… a small twinge of sadness, mostly.

I am sad that it's gone. I have many great memories of that house, most having to do with Jeannine and our first couple of years together.

But as she pointed out when I gave her the news, we still have those memories. We still have artifacts from those times, like this drawing I did of the front of the house. I can't remember WHY I did it -- possibly as a card, or perhaps as part of the directions to our wedding.

And we still have the photos from our wedding, and the lovely memories which go with them. 

        But most of all, we have each other. -- PL


Adam Riches said...

What a bittersweet story...and what incredible timing you have in posting it, as I drove by the house I grew up in today, which I hadn't seen in a quite a long time.

As a fan of your work, and understanding the significance of that house and the history that transpired there, I have to say it does make me sad, and I've never even been there. I can only imagine though, knowing that two life changing events for you occurred there, what it must feel like to see that.

I think you and Jeannine have the right outlook on it though. Personally speaking, all the significant events of my life didn't really occur because of a location, but rather the people and things that happened there that made them special. The memories are far more important, and no one can take those from you.

mikeandraph87 said...

I agree with,Adam. Its not the place but the people that are there that a place specail with good memories. That is a fitting tribute to your first home together and it is still captured nicely on paper and in the mind. No one can demolish either.

I wish you,Jeanine, and Emily a Happy Thanksgiving. The holiday season is upon us once again.

Mark H said...

That is sad Pete. I think the great part of the story is that you and Jeannine have had a successful marriage since 1983. That gives me hope. Home is not the walls around us, it is being with the people who we love, and love us. I think as long as you still have that, your still home. I know I sound corny, but I really believe it.
On a side note: I think the house the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles where created in should have been preserved as a historical landmark. That is probably just me being sentimental myself. I have a fondness for those turtles that gave me little bit of an escape from a rough childhood. I never said thanks for that! So thank you Pete.
Have a great Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

That stinks, we used to have similiar traditions when visiting NH (as my family & I went on vacation there practically every year since I was born) & it's sad to see the place where memories were made be destroyed.

Maybe back then when you drew the front of the house, somewhere in the back of your mind you knew it wouldn't be forever & wanted something to remember it by. Perhaps if your know someone who makes miniature, model houses you can get them to re-create the house for you in that scale? This way, the house wouldn't really be completely gone & anytime you want to look at it, you'll have it.

I agree with Mike H, TMNT has been a huge part of the lives of countless people, I think that alone should have allowed the house to be preserved for historical purposes. It's entirely possible no one thought about it or knew the TMNT were created there.

Hope your Thanksgiving was great, I know I had a great time filled with lots of pie. ^_^

Sarah The Anime Librarian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah The Anime Librarian said...

My childhood home in Springfield burned down this past spring. I saw the video of it on the news and felt like I was kciked in the chest. It was the place my late father put a lot of blood, sweat and swearing into. LOL. I haven't been able to bring myself to drive by, even though I haven't lived there in 24 years.

Obviously I took this a bit harder, but I know exactly how you feel about the sweet memories aspect. Its really what you've put into a place that matters, not the place itself. I have many wonderful memories of our old house that can't be taken by a fire.

I'm glad though, that you were hit less than I. I know its silly. It hasn't been my house since I was 10. But it was rough for me.

Ben Blanchette said...

You might be happy to know that the house on Union Street lives on in Google Maps. From the bird's eye view it is an empty lot, but if you switch to street view it is still standing. The images were taken in September 2011, two months before you wrote this post.