Sunday, June 04, 2017

Home Again, Home Again

I frantically dug my phone out of my pocket, dialed my sister’s number, and began my meltdown.

“Joan!” I wailed as the tears started to flow, “I stopped by the house on Senator Street and it was a bad idea!”

I had returned to my family’s home for the first time in nearly three years last week and I didn’t handle it very well.

The morning had started off with a visit to the Good Fortune Supermarket, the site of the old Fortway Theater on Fort Hamilton Avenue to research a book project I’m working on.

On the way there, I stopped by McKinley Park, which I had not visited in years. My sister tells me that our mother used to take us there when we were children, but I’m sorry to say I have no memory of that.

After revisiting the Good Fortune, I walked through nearby Leif Ericson Park, which was filled parents, kids, and elderly people, most of whom were Chinese, much like the rest of the neighborhood.

From there, I walked down to Sixth Avenue, where I spotted the Sixth Avenue Electrical Supply Corp., formerly Karl Droge Ice Cream, my second home on sweltering summer nights when I was growing up.

This is where I used to go with my friends—and everybody else in the neighborhood—for fabulous Italian ices that could drain the heat right out of any August evening. There’s a church right across the street, but back then Karl Droge was the real holy place.

The building was just two blocks from my family’s home and I figured, oh, hell, I’ve come this far, why not stroll up Senator Street?

Time Machine

Big mistake.

I thought I could deal with this. I’ve driven down this block many times with my sister and I didn’t think it would be a problem.

However, as I got closer to the house, when I saw these beautiful flowers in the garden, where my mother used to do her planting, when I saw the new fence and the ceiling fan in the upstairs apartment, when I saw a car in the driveway, when I realized that people, honest to God people were living here now, I started to fall apart.

A nighttime drive-by is one thing, but a slow walk on a sunny Saturday afternoon is quite different.

I hung around the house for a few minutes, shocked at how quickly the years had gone by.

Then a man walked down the driveway and entered the house and I wanted to speak with him, tell him that I grew up here and that I had so many memories, but nothing came out of my mouth.

I regret it now, but at the time I felt foolish. What does he care about who used to live here?

I started to walk down the driveway to look at the back garden when I reminded myself that I was about to walk on to somebody else's property.

My sister wasn’t home when I called, as she had gone hiking where she could enjoy the here and now, instead of blundering around the past.

I finally walked up the block and headed for home. I guess it was a mistake to visit the old house, but I don’t regret it. I wanted to see.

I would like to go back to Senator Street again someday and maybe even speak with the new owners.

But I’m going to need some time.


Bijoux said...

You really should go back and talk to the owners when you feel up to it. At our last house, a pair of 30-somethings stopped by in the 90's. The young woman had been the daughter of the original owners, back in 1966 and the young man was her next door neighbor at the time. I think they were in town for a class reunion or something. We invited them in and showed them around. They were most amazed by the backyard and how tall the trees were, etc. She remembered her father planting some of them. Honestly, we enjoyed her stories and memories as much as she enjoyed reminiscing.

Rob K said...

Thank you, Bijoux, that's a great idea. And I love how that young woman stopped by your home! It must've been great hearing those old stories. A house really is a place of many stories, isn't it?

Take care!

Ron said...

Rob, this post reminded me of the movie, "The Trip to Bountiful", with Geraldine Page - a beautiful and touching story that was bittersweet.

I felt the same as you twice - once when I went back to the home I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and the other time was when I went back to the home our family moved to when we first moved to Florida - both times I felt very emotional.

A house isn't just a place we lived and grew up in, it's a place that holds experiences that stay with us our entire life. And when we see the house after so many years, those experiences and feelings immediately come back to us and are felt, deep within our soul.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience, buddy. Thank you.

Have a great week!

Jay said...

Revisiting a childhood home can really stir up some strong memories, can't it? I did that once and was shocked at the surge of raw emotion that hit me, and not the emotion I might have expected, either. I'd planned to go inside the block of flats and take the lift up to 'our' floor, but I simply could not do it.

Part of me would like to go back again some day, and knock on the door as Bijou suggests. I'd love to see inside the flat, because I'm sure a lot of memories will resurface ... and I'd be ready for them this time, wouldn't I?

Or would I?

Rob K said...

Yes, Jay, these old family homes can certainly rile up the emotions. And it is shocking how powerful these emotions really are. I understand fully that you couldn't up to your floor--it can be so overwhelming.

Like you there's a part of me that wants to back and knock on that door, but I don't think I can handle those memories--even if I'm prepared for them!

Take care!

Rob K said...


Hey, buddy, thanks so much for sharing your experiences!

"A house isn't just a place we lived and grew up in, it's a place that holds experiences that stay with us our entire life. And when we see the house after so many years, those experiences and feelings immediately come back to us and are felt, deep within our soul."

Oh, that is pure gold, Ron, and so incredibly true! Our stories are wrapped up in the bricks and mortar and we never really leave these places no matter how many years go by!

Take care, my friend!

A Cuban In London said...

I think the new owners would appreciate your memories of their house.

Greetings from London.

Rob K said...

You're so right, brother! I'm going to try again!