I've lived in 12 houses over my lifetime. Moving boxes are not as foreign to me as I would like. Every time I walked out of a home for the last time, I'd stand in the doorway and try to soak in the many memories as a final farewell. Some places I look back on with fond memories and other places I look back on with deep, loving memories. The one home that holds the most memories is the place where I spent the most formative years of my life. And as this life journey unfolds in an unpredictable way, I now live about a mile away from it once more.
Our home on Southbridge Rd was where we moved as I headed into 6th grade. We weren't even planning on moving at the time. Out of the blue, a real estate agent contacted my parents and stated that a pastor and his family were relocating to the area, loved our neighborhood, etc... Once the new family toured our not even on the market home and loved it, and we found ourselves with less than 2 months to find a new place to live. And thus began our life on Southbridge.
I made new friends in that house. I entered junior high and then high school there. I learned to drive on the streets of that neighborhood as my parents anxiously stepped on imaginary brakes and my dad grabbed the wheel when a squirrel ran in front of the car and I let go of it to cover my eyes, with both hands. Oops. I'm glad to say that all of us survived, including the squirrel.
I began high school one more time as I transferred to a private school my senior year and became the "new girl" in a student body that had done school together for years. I later met the smarty pants, "athlete of the year" who would become my husband a mere 16 years later. We hung out in that home where we'd watch movies or he'd type my research papers while I read the handwritten draft aloud to him because he was the faster typer. I became a cheerleader in that home, which would then allow me 3 years of college cheerleading and 7 years of coaching college cheerleading. I was nominated for Prom court and found myself screaming and crying only 2 hours before the dance and would lock myself in the bathroom all while undoing my expensive up-do that we had just had done because it made me look like "ET". I finally made it to the dance and no one was the wiser outside of my poor mom who tried to talk me down through the locked door.
I eventually moved away to South Carolina for college, but whenever I returned, which was every chance I could, I came back to this home. I knew the smells the minute I'd walk in the door. The scent of pluff mud and salt water air remained on the clothes in my suitcase, and the familiar smell of family and clean laundry and meals together filled my time there. Our childhood dog and first love, Chelsea, was buried in the backyard in 2001. I'd later try and convince my parents to take her with them when they moved years down the road. My campaign was futile and she's still there resting peacefully. I doubt the new owners even know she's there, but I do. I still might go get her one day. She deserves to be somewhere known.
Eventually my parents sold our home and I found myself coming "home" from Charleston to a home that I had never seen before. It smelled different. It felt different. There was no Chelsea in the flowerbed. The people I loved were all there and the pictures of everything that was my childhood were all there, but it wasn't home. Not yet, at least.
I still drive by my Southbridge home all the time. I'm not 100% convinced that it's my doing, as sometimes my car just seems to head that direction before I've even thought it through. I'd give anything to walk through it again. I'd love to show their children my secret graffiti nook where I wrote everything that was swirling around in my head under one of the built-in shelves in my bedroom. They'd never find it unless they laid down on their back on the floor and inched under the shelf. I'd love to see my 12 year old handwriting and laugh at the thoughts that were important enough to write down under a shelf. And I'd love to see if it smells the same. I know it probably doesn't, but I'm guessing that there's at least a hint of us still there somewhere. There has to be. There are way too many memories clinging to those walls to be covered up by fresh paint and clean laundry. A home cannot be erased that easily when the roots are deep.