Pictured above is the wood stove fireplace in the living room of the home I grew up in. I am currently sitting in front of it, watching what may be the last fire I’ll ever build in this fireplace dwindle down to nothing but embers and ash. This may be the last night I’ll ever spend sitting here in front of this fireplace, in this room, in this house, on this street, in my hometown.
I have so many fond memories of this house. Just staring at this fireplace reminds me of a time when I was little and running around the house with my sister and cousin. I tripped, lost my balance and caught myself but burned both my hands on the top of the wood stove in the process. I’ve since learned to be much more careful around burning fires. Five feet from this fireplace is the couch where I laid for a week after having surgery when I was seventeen — frozen peas pressed to my face and vicodin coursing through my veins. Two rooms from that couch is the kitchen where I drank my first beer and eventually drank many other beers with countless good friends. Twenty feet beyond that is the family room couch where I would spend my mornings before school watching cartoons as a young lad, and later watched Sportscenter as a slightly older young lad. It’s the very same room I sat in on the morning of September 11th, 2001, as my dad and I watched the twin towers fall, speechless and stunned. At that moment, all the darkness and evil of the world reached out through TV screens and radio waves and pushed its way into our schools, offices, cars, living rooms and the forefront of our minds. At that moment, I suddenly felt smaller than I ever had before. One floor above that couch was my childhood bedroom where I would spend hours in junior high talking to friends on the phone, skating around the constant “do you think she likes me?” worries of adolescent insecurity, back before texting was the norm (hint: she usually didn’t like me). The window of that bedroom still doesn’t have a screen because I broke it climbing out onto the roof in the summer after 8th grade, probably to drink Capri-Suns and feel like the king of the world. On the other side of that roof was our magical backyard, where as a kid I played countless games of tag, hide-and-seek, basketball, and I excelled at makeshift home run derbies, like a 9-year-old Mark McGwire (minus the steroids and 24-inch biceps). Yes, every inch of this property has its very own list of memories, and I could go on all day describing them to you, but that’s not the point. This is not a story about nostalgia or about happier days. This is a story about growing up and moving on.