You know they say you can’t go home again.

I always assumed my parents would have our childhood home forever. It would always be a place for me to come back toa place of comfort and memories. But, the Zillow listing slapped me in the face. A wake-up call that I can’t hold on to things forever. Words jump out at meCape Cod. 4 bedrooms and 3 full baths. Square feet. Finished basement. Move-in ready. Granite countertops. These were the words used to describe the house I grew up in? Nouns. So concrete and factual and so matter of fact that I wondered if the house staring back at me was even our house. I had to change that. I had to rewrite it. 

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I just had to come back one last time. Ma’am, I know you don’t know me from Adam.

But that front door you have closed was always opened. Kids from the neighborhood would run in and out all day. My mom would try to scrub up the footprints, only to have another little kid trod his muddy shoes into the house. She didn’t care. She loved it and would always have a snack for everyone.

Up those stairs, that bedroom off to the left was mine. It’s where I spent hours writing and filling pages of journals and playing school with my dolls.

And I bet you didn’t know out in the front lawn, there is a patch of grass that doesn’t grow. That was the home plate for our Wiffle ball games. My dad would be the only adult playing with all the neighborhood kids. He would taunt them until the losing team would skulk off and cry. And I, the only girl, would rattle off my softball chants in a squeal that was sure to annoy rowdy boys.  

If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave. Won’t take nothing but a memory. From the house that built me.

Mom got ideas from HGTV for years. From HomeGoods and Pier 1 stores. Plans were made and granite was laid. And nail by nail and board by board, my mom’s dreams came alive. We had granite countertops put in, our basement finished, and our deck expanded. But I know she doesn’t remember our house for that. My friends would gather around those granite countertops, digging into snacks and laughing, after football games, for sleepovers, friendship days, Oscar parties, and our annual beer, wine, and cheese party, which would turn into a packed house and ended with someone daring a brave soul to drink the spit bucket mixed with all the beer and wine.

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And down in that basement is where my brother and his friends (the bad guys) would chase my friends and me through the tunnels and the secret door. It’s where we would perform plays and have birthday parties that would turn into a game of hot potato getting out of hand between my cousins or the neighbor getting attacked by another little kid. All caught on camera, thankful that my dad behind the camera kept filming instead of stopping to intervene. And out on that side deck, an epic shot was made into the neighbor’s basketball hoop.  

If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave. Won’t take nothing but a memory. From the house that built me.

Right there in that living room is where we would decorate the Christmas tree.

My grandparents would come over for a ham sandwich lunch and to see all the presents we got. And in that little corner is where we replaced the big Christmas tree with a Charlie Brown tree the year my mom got cancer. And on those floors, we all laid together and watched a movie, thankful her surgery went well. Down the hallway, that bedroom was an office where the company my dad started grew from. My aunt would come every day to work, and she would bring my cousin to play with us. When that phone rang, we had to be quiet.  

If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave. Won’t take nothing but a memory. From the house that built me.

Outside, every summer, our yard would transform into the carnival. Right over there, by the woods was a treehouse that became the water balloon stand and next to the deck was the baseball toss. And I, by the road, would man the prize stand. After it was over, my mom would gather all of us up and march us down to Catholic Charities to hand over the money and work.

When my uncle, aunt, cousins, and grandma would visit, we had lemonade stands. Twenty-five cents for a lemonade and a pack of gum. People would come from all over to line up. As we got older, a badminton net became a permanent fixture in the yard during the summer. Friends would come over for tournaments.  

If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave. Won’t take nothing but a memory. From the house that built me.

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That house right next door, the Taylors live there. Their three boys now grown and moved away. In their backyard was a swimming pool. We had many volleyball games and races there.

On a summer night, we would play pickup games on their basketball court and then in the fall have a bonfire and a movie in their yard.

If you get a chance, ask them about how we killed their pet while they were away on vacation and how my dad made a neighborhood kid cry from scaring him during a campout. And when the sky got dark and the streetlight turned on, neighbors would come out to gather in our yard. The adults would talk and drink while the kids played hide-and-seek. Under the Taylor’s deck was a good place to hide.   

You leave home, you move on and you do the best you can.

Whenever I got lost in this old world and forgot who I was, I would come back to this house. At first, I came back alone. Then, I brought my husband. And finally, I brought my son. Now, I will have nothing to go back to but these wonderful memories thanks to the house that built me.  

Lauren Barrett

My name is Lauren, and I was born in New Jersey, grew up in West Virginia, went to college in Pennsylvania, and now live and work in North Carolina. I'm a high school teacher of the deaf and hard-of-hearing by day, a cross country coach by the afternoon, and a writer by night. I love my faith, running, watching baseball, chocolate, scrapbooking, pretending I would actually do well on the Amazing Race, re-watching The Office, listening to Bobby Bones, inspiring young minds, and as of recently momming it!