By Amanda Christmann
I drove by my grandparents’ old house today.
It wasn’t an intentional destination; it simply called to me while I was out and about, living my life. Along the winding highway though wood-covered hills I rode, a passenger in my own story, until at the top of a hill I spied the handmade road sign that I watched my grandfather carefully post nearly 30 years ago.
Onto their long driveway I turned.
This was the same driveway where I learned to ride a bicycle. A silent movie played in my head as I recalled the day my brother held on tight to the same vintage bike my mother and her sisters used to ride. I climbed aboard, and with a gentle push from my brother, I cruised down the long hill with a grin as wide as the Mississippi, terrified and exhilarated at the same time as the bike picked up speed. It wasn’t until I got near the bottom that I realized the bike had no brakes, and the only thing that kept me from crashing into my grandma’s cozy porch was the thick crop of woody juniper bushes in front of the house.
Still, I got back up and repeated the feat probably 50 times that day.
I drove my car down the hill, past the regrowth of trees that happened after a tornado mowed them down on only one side of the driveway when I was in elementary school. The grass was freshly mowed, a job my grandfather did religiously with his rusted old International tractor that had a home in the carport before I was born. As children, all of us cousins took turns sitting on his lap and “driving” that tractor. My grandfather, in his button down shirts and slacks that he wore no matter what he was doing, chuckled as we swerved in and out of the straight lines he made in the grass.
Up ahead was the house.
This was the house my grandfather built himself for my grandmother and their four daughters. It was a proud home with stone trim around the outside, and plenty of bedrooms for everyone. They’d kept it perfect all the time: the flower gardens tended, the paint always fresh, and decorations for each season adorning the door.
My mother and her sisters used to choreograph their own musicals in this house, and the yard was always busy – in their generation and in mine – with jump ropes, badminton tournaments, lawn darts, croquet, and all kinds of games we made up as we grew. Good smells always came from the kitchen, and the sound of my grandmother’s organ, louder as she got older, could be heard through open windows in the summertime.
Now the house looks abandoned.
The roof is caving in. The doors to the garage where my grandfather tinkered with plants and projects are completely missing. Weeds have overtaken the yard so that it is unrecognizable. To anyone else, the memories never existed.
But they existed to me.
I don’t know where or when I became lost along the way. Life seemed so simple when this house and these people were alive.
I’ve followed my own path, so far from their world, across distant lands.
I’ve stood in a downpour in the African rain-forest, holding a banana leaf over my head as rain soaked my invigorated body. I’ve swam in the warm seas of the Caribbean, lulled by the waves and kissed by the sun. I’ve been drunk on tequila in Mexico, laughing and happy as the world spun around me. I’ve held newborns – my own and those of strangers – and welcomed them into the world. And I’ve held the hands of children and mothers as death stole their breath. I’ve found love and felt pain, and it has been a glorious ride.
But it always comes back to this place.
As I turned around and crept back up the driveway, I felt a sense of loss. Time is not kind. It does not stop so that we can keep living these moments we share. Love, it seems, is the only constant, and it, too, needs to be nurtured and fed.
The places change. The people move on and pass on. The one thing that remains, no matter how far I wander, is home.
Amanda Christmann is a freelance writer and editor for Women For One, and she travels the world as a human rights advocate and activist, particularly on issues that involve human trafficking and women’s empowerment. She is an avid cyclist and mom to three boys, two dogs, and two sassy cats.
Editor: Sherrin Fitzer
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