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The Houses We Haunt

We all go back to those spaces in our lives when we felt safe. We all seek that feeling of home, whether it is a place or an idea. I left New Jersey in 1984; I left the priceless remnants of my childhood in the attic.

The attic smelled like age, I was always avoiding stepping between the beams as to not fall through the ceiling. I remember the pink insulation and the stale hot air in the summer, the cold chill in the winter.

I remember the anticipation of going up and bringing down the Halloween stuff. The rubber bats and snakes, the skeleton shapes and decorations for the windows and old costumes, the ones that came in a square box with just the mask showing through plastic; the memories are so vivid.

I remember my grandmas’ voices, both of them telling us to wait for mom to come home. The smell of candy in the Halloween aisle and how it followed you home with the new costume you bought. I remember being a devil and my brother a skeleton; the costumes were scary but not gory.

Christmas was the box of garland and lights, the collection of decorations that seemed to grow with every year. Winter came and you knew it, it was cold, the attic was always freezing, you could see your breath as you looked for the manger, the one my late grandfather built.

We even had Easter and Thanksgiving decorations; there were bowls of nuts with pilgrim candles and nutcrackers, Easter candles and bunny decorations. The decorations made each holiday so distinct for the memories and me are still so clear.

I miss comic books and baseball cards; so many my dads probably bought me. My uncle would buy us scary horror comics. I remember my grandma dying right at the time when I was reading those scary comics as death took on the shape of a specter all its own.

I remember all the collections of rocks and animal artifacts, shark teeth, fossils and feathers. I kept them with little organization, nothing has changed, but I knew their worth and I cherished them. As I got older I kept matchbooks and tickets from concerts or prom memorabilia.

Somewhere along the path, all of the weight of collector glasses and science kits disappeared, even the CD collection I had seems to have dissolved into a mass of broken plastic and scratched silver disks in sleeves without names. My childhood museum has collapsed.

Now the remnants have been filtered through another major change in life. The divorce turned old memories into a sea of old boxes, some left to decay in the hot garage, some in the rodent infested shed out back and others never made it out of the house. I remember we walked out with many boxes just abandoned with stuff that at one time was so important to us.

We had a storage shed that slowly dwindled down and all the treasures of our lives past seemed to fade away. Now before you think this post is all about sadness and regret, we have to let the past go, we have to keep filling our rooms with new treasures as the weight of the old ones can overwhelm and weigh us down as much as they make us smile.

I learned not to collect glasses as they are very cumbersome and tend to break in transit. I consider the artifacts of our lives should be highlights, small bookmarks instead of billboards. Pieces of me still haunt those places, those houses where our memories and energies still thrive. It begs the question, if we can never go home than will we ever be truly home again? I miss my home in New Jersey.

What do you think?

11 points
Legend

Written by stevelinebaugh

Oil painter and pastel artist, writer, photographer, graphic designer,
originally from New Jersey

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4 Comments

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  1. ….”we have to let the past go, we have to keep filling our rooms with new treasures as the weight of the old ones can overwhelm and weigh us down as much as they make us smile.”

    You are absolutely right. It is one one the most difficult things to do in life.

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