Going Home Again
At the sale of the house he grew up in, Bob Perks learns that some memories are priceless.
BY: Bob Perks
Don't tell me you can't go home again. I just came back from there.
My phone rang early last Saturday morning."Hey, did you see in the paper that 466 is having a house sale?" my brother asked.
"No, are they really?"
"Yes. I think we're going down later to just walk through it."
466 is the house number of the home we lived in when I was growing up. I lived in a community where the older generation always stayed close to where they were born. Families rarely moved away back then—that is until the kids graduated high school. Then it appears that most of my classmates left the area.
So many of the old homesteads were left with parents growing old and children returning for holidays and funerals.
"Well, if you go, let me know what it looks like," I said.
Then it played over in my mind. It must have been that I hadn't had my coffee when my brother called. "How could I pass up a chance to see it again?" I said to my wife. "Let's go!"
I was actually nervous. On my way there, my mind replayed a thousand memories. When we pulled up, I began to shake. I am a man whose emotions lie barely below the surface. I am a writer and a speaker, yet I still can't capture in words my real feelings at the moment I set foot just inside the door.
I was home.
Introducing myself to the current owner, I put my hand out and said, "Hello. I’m Bob Perks. I
used to live here." He kept his arms crossed in front of him and didn't respond. Maybe this was a bad idea.
I continued nervously telling my story. He finally warmed up when he realized I valued the home as much as he did. He lived there 21 years. I called my brother to tell him where I was.
"I thought you weren't going!" he said.
"I guess I really had to be here," I replied.
Much to my surprise, the owner turned toward me and said, "Come on, you need to see the rest of the house. I'll take you upstairs myself."
"But you have a sale going on," I said.
"This is more important," he replied.
Then the man actually closed the front door and took us upstairs. My room. Oh, my. If I could just sit in there all by myself for a little while, the rush of memories would overwhelm me.
My parents’ room. I could see clearly where every piece of furniture had been back then…my mom sitting at the vanity table, the small music box powder jar she kept on the right.
Then he took up us to the attic. There was a special room there where I used to play. I remembered the old Singer sewing machine that was operated by pumping your foot. Even back then I don't think Mom ever used it. But it was a classic.
It was in the attic this particular day that a real life-changing moment would occur. I happened to mention that I plastered the walls in the small attic room with Beatles pictures. I could hear the Sgt. Pepper album blasting. I would sing along, holding a pretend microphone while standing in the light of a 60-watt bulb placed strategically on the pole lamp taken from the living room.
If you remember "albums" and "pole lamps," you're dating yourself. Suddenly my daydreaming was shattered.
"Did you have a scrapbook where you kept Beatles pictures, too?" he asked.
"I found it up here. It's downstairs. We were going to sell it on Ebay."
I hurried down to see if it really was mine. He walked over to a box buried in the corner in the living room. "Who's Bobby?" he asked. I responded like a little kid waiting for Santa to hand out gifts. "That's me!" I shrieked in a high voice.
There it was. One of those old photo albums with the black construction paper bound by a laced shoestring.
"What's it worth to you?" He was selling his stuff. But this was my stuff.
"Priceless!" my wife responded.
"Here, take it," he said.
Nothing could match this moment better than seeing my brother arrive. He immediately walked in and stood in the second room right near the kitchen door. I knew what he was doing. He turned and said to the man, "My mother died right here. I held her hand when she died."
I was there with him and Dad that day, but declaring his place there was important to him today. He adored her.
Later I stood in the kitchen with him, and in another moment I will treasure the rest of my life, I turned to him and said, "I would never in a million years think that you and I would be standing here again. Me 59 and you 69."
We all walked out together and as we hugged and said goodbye, I turned for one last look.
I swear I could see my mom standing there on the porch steps. It was where I saw her when I drove up after Navy boot camp. She was wearing one of her many housecoats, smiling and waving.
I couldn't help it. I had to wave one more time. This time, "Goodbye!"
Thank you, God. Thank you for big memories in small moments. And thank you for keeping my brother and me around so that we could go home again.