Just after coming back from a lovely walk, a car slowed to a stop in front of my house. I yelled out a “hello” and asked if he needed something. He was a nice, Hungarian gentleman who went on to tell me that his name was Laslo and he had built our house with his bare hands in the 1950’s. He said he had lived here for 20 years after he built it and raised a son here. Every time he is in the area he takes a drive past the house, this time I just happened to be outside. He told me that our house was the first one built on the street and that he used to walk to his job just up the road at a factory. He explained that in the beginning, the house would flood when it rained because of the pitch of the driveway which was why he installed the sump pump at the base of the driveway. He told me that he put a penny in every corner of the main room under the wood floor.
I invited him to come in and take a look to see what had changed in the house over the years. I told him about the addition the previous owners had built and about how much we had done to the backyard. He declined and even started to drive away when I mentioned it. I think his memory served him well and he wanted to visit this place in his memory, not learn about what we had done to change things. He looked over at my neighbor Pete, also Hungarian, who was in front of his house trimming the hedge. He explained that Pete’s house was the second on the street and built in the 1960’s. He said they knew each other back then and that they helped build the street we live on. To my surprise, he never took a second glance at Pete or slowed his car as he passed him to offer a hello to his old neighbor. When we were done talking he just took a long last look and drove away.
I went inside with new thoughts about my house, this place that I come home to every day without even thinking about it. You get numb to your routine, you find comfort and settle in to a pattern. So often we forget to be grateful for all of the things that surround us. After meeting Laslo I took a new look around my house. I became grateful for his hard work and his care of this house all those years ago. I wondered who else had lived here since then and I realized that I was now a part of the story of this house. Maybe someday I will drive past and tell my part of the story to a new family of how I raised my daughters here and spent countless, relaxing hours at the park right across the street.
People spend a lot of energy and time making their private space just the way they want it. We leave our mark on the world with the way we live in those moments. At home is where you relax and let it all go, hopefully. I thought about how attached people become to their homes when really I think they are attached to the space in time represented by that house. I don’t necessarily feel attached to the brick and mortar of this house, but rather I feel an affection for the times I have had here. I’m grateful for the strength and integrity of the house itself, but it’s the memories and the time that I will carry with me long after I leave this place. I have other special places like this as well, and something still makes me long to be in those spaces sometimes. Being there helps me remember, feel, and even smell the memory from way back when…. and that is nice.
So, thank you Laslo, for coming by and paying a visit to your memory. Thank you for reminding me that life goes on and that we should take time to be grateful along the way.