As I drove through the old neighborhood, memories of my kids playing at the community park, riding our bikes to the ice cream shop, and driving them to school every morning, filled my heart. Austin and Sophia are now in their late twenties and both live out of state. Jeremiah, their father, and I divorced when they were in elementary school and we rarely saw him once they hit middle school. It was his loss, not theirs. I moved across the state several years ago for a job opportunity, and this was my first time back since I drove off in the moving truck on that clear, Fall day. Moving day had been full of laughter and tears as the kids and I finished packing up the last of our things. Sophia had found the tiara she wore in her first dance recital, and Austin had been enthralled with his old video game set. We had all gone out to the backyard to say our final goodbye to the place where we spent so many lovely evenings. I would be laying on my favorite lounge chair, reading or chatting on the phone, while I watched Austin and Sophia take turns climbing the old oak tree, or fight over who was “it” when playing tag.
My car turned the all too familiar right turn onto our old street. The sedan seemed to know exactly where I was going without any direction from me. We passed Mr. and Mrs. Potter’s house. Unfortunately, they both have passed away, and I heard their kids sold the house about a year ago. Trey and Selene lived next door with their three kids, but moved shortly after I did to upgrade to a larger home. I didn’t recognize any of the cars on the street anymore. My sedan slowed and I parked across the street from our old house. The plan was to just drive by, but apparently, my car had other plans. I turned the ignition off, removed my seat belt, and just sat in the car staring at our old house. Despite the different color house paint, and a new front door, I could still easily picture what it used to look like in my mind. Tears filled my eyes. I now understood what my mom felt when we had driven by her old house many years ago. I was eleven or twelve years old, sitting in the back of my parent’s station wagon, when my dad had pulled over to park across from mom’s childhood home. I remember tears had filled her eyes and my dad had gently put his hand on hers to comfort her. At the time, I truly didn’t understand what the big deal was…it was just a house. Now, I feel what mom must have felt all of those years ago. The longing to go back in time, even just for a few moments, to feel the warmth and love that filled the walls. Oh, how I would give anything to be cooking dinner on that ancient stove, or yelling at the kids to come help set the table for dinner.
I was immersed in memories, when the streetlights abruptly turned on. I realized I should probably leave, even though I wanted to stay there forever.
I snapped my seatbelt back into its place and reluctantly turned on the ignition. Tears streamed down my face again as I took one last look at the old house as the car started to accelerate down the street.