One of the things I was most afraid of when we went back to FL this summer...was driving by my old house.
When I graduated from high school in 2000, I went back to FL to visit my best friend. Seeing the house then (just 2 years after we had moved) was very unsettling. I remember just driving by and feeling like someone had punched me in the stomach.
The house was dirty on the outside.
The flower-beds were overgrown.
The lawns were clearly uncared for.
Someone else's cars were in the driveway.
And I realized that it wasn't ours anymore.
So when we went back in this last June, I had geared myself up for another punch in the stomach.
We drove through the old neighborhood. There were pink stickers in many of the windows, indicating that many of the apartments were abandoned. The streets and sidewalks were old. It felt almost unfamiliar...like it had all been another life.
But, as we got closer and closer (and my heart started racing), it suddenly felt familiar again. Just like it always had been.
When we pulled up...it wasn't quite as bad as I'd envisioned it would be.
The house was a little better looking than I had remembered it in 2000, the last time I was there.
And then we drove around the back. And I lost it.
How could it be?
How could the grass really be that long?
How could the fence be that old?
How could the trees be that big?
And most of all, how could they not be caring about that house?
How could the new owners not remember...
...all of the birthdays we celebrated?
...the perms my mom gave me at the kitchen sink?
...the sleepovers I had in the bedroom that I was afraid to have all the lights off in?
...the new babies we welcomed?
...the fun we had in that outrageously huge backyard?
...the memories, the birthday cakes, and the blown-out candles?
...the numerous family pictures against a background of neatly trimmed grass, our swingset, and our trampoline?
How, really, could those people and that house have forgotten this family that called it home?
I cried that day. For missing the way things were. For missing the life we had built there. For all of the evidence of our time there being gone.
And, then I remembered something that my parents told us as we pulled out of that driveway for the last time in June of 1998.
We're taking all of the important stuff with us.
And we did.
We took the family with us.
We took the pictures with us.
We took the memories with us.
And 407 E Shell Point Road was just the place we made them all.
In hindsight, I'm glad I went back. I got to show my husband the place where I grew up. Where I lived. Where I made memories. Where I rode my bike. Where our rich neighbors lived. Where my elementary school was. Where my life was.
And, I think it took going back to realize...that I had the most important stuff with me.
Just like we did in June of 1998.