In June of 2000, when we moved to Venice, Florida, if we would have met someone who lived in our neighborhood for as long as we have, they would have lived here since 1980. In 1980 our neighborhood was nothing but Florida scrub and pasture land. In 1980 I was in Middle School (or Junior High as we called it back then) still living in Crown Point, Indiana. At that time I had no idea what life was going to bring. No idea that I would grow up, go to Slippery Rock University, meet a lovely young lady named Michelle, marry her, have two kids, become a Pastor, move to Venice, get a heart transplant and have to isolate myself in my house because of a virus that could kill me. Before moving here the longest that I had ever lived in one place was seven years. I can remember thinking, as I was growing up, that I wanted to find a place to live and put down roots. I wanted my kids to grow up in one house. I wanted them to go away to college and be able to come home and sleep in the room of their childhood. Later, I envisioned my girls returning home with their families to visit grandma and grandpa.
As I sit here today, looking out the window of the study in our house, I think to myself that the neighborhood hasn’t changed that much in the last twenty years. Yet, it has. Funny thing about us humans; we have the ability to lock a place into our minds and even when we are looking straight at it we still see it as our memories dictate. This can be either positive or negative. We can remember a place in a negative way and no matter how much it changes, it will remain a negative place in our minds. Likewise, we can idolize a place and it will ever remain that way, regardless of changes. Granted, our neighborhood hasn’t changed that much in the last twenty years, but I still see it as someone who has lived here all that time. The faces of some of my neighbors have changed and remarkably, some have stayed the same. Some trees have been removed and some added, a vacant lot is finally being built upon, the strange square cut out in the sidewalk, that we never understood why it was there, has been patched with concrete and our palm trees have become too big for us to trim by ourselves.
When I look at our house I still see it that first evening when we came to look at it. For sale by owner, the Pastor of the local Lutheran church whose youngest daughter had just left for college and he no longer needed three bedrooms and two baths. I see the ugly muted pink cabinetry, the white pool deck with a hammock over in the corner, the wall paper in the master bedroom and the standard Florida second living room that we had no idea what to do with being newly relocated northerners. I remember the old guy two doors down that I met on our first day, while walking my dog, that announced how happy he was that the preacher had moved out. We never spoke again, other then the casual “Hello”, probably out of his sense of embarrassment when I announced that another preacher had taken his place. I still see the hedges in the front yard that I constantly worked so hard to keep shaped. I see the empty second living room, as you walked in the front door, because we only owned one set of living room furniture. As I look at our house today, I still see what was as a dimly lit overlay of what is now.
There is going to come a day when Michelle and I will move from this house because we will no longer be able to manage three bedrooms and two baths. We will pack up our years, our memories, our lives and walk out. Right behind us will enter someone new who will see their house and their neighborhood with new eyes and they, like us, will lock it into their memories in whatever way that fate dictates. Those memories will serve them, as they served us and as they served the Lutheran Pastor and his family before us. Life will go on and we will make new memories in a new place. If, when this happens, we ever get the opportunity to drive by our “old house”, we will not see it as it is, but we will see it as we remember it. Funny thing about us humans.