The sun came out Saturday afternoon. Perhaps you saw it. It had been so long since we had experienced that bright orange orb, and the relative warmth it brings in April, that Mrs. Amigo, the three amigo children, and I were uncertain how to respond.
“What is that up there?” the youngest asked me.
“I think it’s the sun!” I replied, excited and uncertain.
“Do you think it’s safe to go outside?” the amigo asked, taking his head away from the gaming console for a nanosecond.
“Hmm,” I said, “I’m not absolutely sure. But let’s take a chance. I forget what the sun feels like. It might be kind of nice.”
He agreed and we ventured out to the driveway to shoot some baskets and play a little good-natured one-on-one. We warmed up and began our contest (he made a nice steal and lay-up, the little show-off), but paused when a couple of cars pulled up next to the house. A couple of moments later two young adults, both between 35-40 years old, one man and one woman, approached us pleasantly.
“Hi,” the young man (anyone younger than I am is “young”) announced in such a pleasant and familiar fashion I wondered immediately how we knew each other and where we met. “How’s it going?” he added.
“Hi,” I responded. His female companion smiled just as enthusiastically as he and stuck out her hand.
“Hi,” she offered. Then she pointed at our house and at her male counterpart. “I’m Jenny and this is my brother, Matt. Years ago we lived in this house for a few years, growing up. Now both our families live in the Indianapolis area and we just spent some time together at Great Wolf Lodge. We thought it might be fun to drop by on our way home—you know, show our kids and spouses and check things out a little ourselves.”
Her brother chimed in. “Yeah…it’s the first time we’ve been back to Greenville since we moved away in 1990.” He shook his head wistfully and looked at the house again. “It really looks great!”
I introduced myself and Luke and we made small talk for a few moments. Their respective spouses waved from the two cars, and their children (all daughters) made a brief appearance before returning to the cars.
There is something profound about returning to and inspecting a childhood haunt—an old house, a school building, a friend’s home where you spent considerable time. Sometimes your desire to investigate such a location is motivated by a wish to revisit delightful memories—sounds, smells, sights, feelings. In other contexts, you want (or need) to exorcise painful ones. Think Jenny Curran in “Forrest Gump”; her childhood home was the site of tremendous pain and
viciousness and after she became an adult she threw rocks at it. She wanted it razed. Forrest fulfilled this wish after her death.)
The couple before me obviously arrived with the former sort of motive, happily. It’s a sentiment I understand completely, having experienced the same on visits to my own hometown.
“Wanna come inside and take a look around?” I offered.
“Could we?!” Matt asked. “That would be terrific.”
So despite the other activities afoot—Krista was working on Daniel’s schooling curriculum and Abby was entertaining a couple of friends—I escorted them inside our humble abode and observed their mental gears shift and churn.
They gazed at the floors and the windows. They touched the walls and bannister with reverence. They examined the view of the park from the dining room and compared it to their childhood memories. They recollected aloud events that transpired in the home, and were stimulated to speculate concerning the whereabouts of long-lost friends. They began sentences with, “Do you remember the time…” and “I used to sit here and ….”
As the brief tour came to its conclusion, they stood in the kitchen with Krista and me and continued to reminisce. I was touched that they genuinely liked the changes we had made to the house and the yard, and the things we had kept the same. That is almost all Krista’s doing. As they bade us farewell and walked to the park to meet up with their spouses and children, I assured them they were welcome to return (almost) any time.
And I secretly hoped that the three Swensen amigos might return in 30 years to tour their childhood home in order to reignite happy and poignant memories rather than desiring to hurl stones in its direction.
Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.