The house where I grew up came down yesterday.
It had to go. It was built some 70 years ago. A tiny box of a place, now rundown and decades outdated.
My father had bought it sight unseen. He’d come home nights from his job in the composing room of the N&O. He’d bring the first edition of the paper and comb through the real estate ads.
He spotted a place in a neighborhood called Budleigh off Canterbury Road in west Raleigh. First thing the next morning, he called the agent and made an offer.
“Don’t you want to look at it first?” asked the agent.
“No,” my father said. “I know I want it.”
He got it. Then he got a massive case of poison ivy hacking down the weeds and high grass that had taken over the yard.
My parents raised four kids there. I went to Lacy Elementary, Martin Junior High and Broughton. It was one of those idyllic ‘50s childhoods where we stayed out all day playing with friends up and down the street and exploring the creeks and woods that were still around.
We had a yard big enough for baseball, football and tag. At dinner time, our mothers called us or rang a bell.
Once we were playing baseball, my father pitching for both sides, and our friend Richard tagged one ball hard. “Run home, Richard!” yelled my father. Richard promptly ran across the street to his house.
The house had something most don’t today: a front porch. You could sit there and watch everybody go by. I loved summer afternoons when you could watch thunderstorms coming.
The place began going downhill when my dad died in 2005. A few years later my mother remarried and moved away. My sister lived in the house until her death last summer.
Over the last few months, it grew dusty and dank. We rummaged through things. We took or gave away most of the furniture. Up in the attic we found years of memories. Old report cards and school papers, ours and our parents’. Newspapers, magazines and old books. Dishes, linens and clothes. Baby things, kids’ toys and kitchen utensils.
Apparently, people who grew up in the Depression never liked to get rid of anything.
There were treasures. Family pictures. My high school commencement program. A small, crumbling Bible with my grandfather’s name: “Walter Gary Parker. Christmas 1912.”
I knew the house was coming down, so I drove by every day. This morning, it was gone. The lot looked bigger than I remembered. And so empty.
But it also looked ready for new life.
Neighbors bought it and will build their new home on the lot. Their children and ours had played together there, under the generally watchful eyes of my parents.
So there will be life and laughter again. Grandchildren playing, and grandparents watching.
For now, where the house once stood there’s a hole in the ground. And a hole in my heart.