It’s not pretty where my heart still resides…

It's not pretty. Stripped of all of its former beauty and grace, my childhood home, now abandoned, stands gaunt — a total wreck. Once a gorgeous century-old house, decorated with soft lights and lovely draperies, blooming rhododendron skirting the foundation, it stands ravaged from total neglect.

When we return to the place from which we came, we long to see our memories in tact.

This was not my experience when visiting 33 Pennsylvania Avenue in Lakewood, NY just a few weeks ago.

I've been back several times over the last 37 years to find the house in disrepair, contrary to my parents' attentive care. However, this was the worst.

Sitting idle for years with only telltale signs of renovation, the place stares back at me like an unpreserved corpse with its hollow eyes, boney physique, deteriorating lines and decomposing flesh.

Windows broken out, rotting sideboards, swaying eaves, boarded up doorways, it has been purged of anything recognizable. It has no pulse.

My home, where as a child I imagined my future, is gone, save its idle skeleton, which stands weary from disuse.

Peering through the oversized French picture windows into my living room, I behold a place that once contained my dreams, held my hopes, along with disappointments, that now is stripped to only bones: walls with plaster missing, floors splintered and cracked, ceilings that are water stained.

Everywhere I look, I witness the decay and degradation. This once triumphant abode — a Victorian queen — now defeated with unimaginable damage.

Straining hard to remember sights and sounds of its formidable years, I am staring deep into a grave, which has entombed frolicking innocence – dancing, singing, playing, sharing, being.

My heart grows larcenous with a sudden urge to pick up a stone, a brick, a piece of clapboard — even a chip of glass — and steal it away. My soul thunders with anger over reckless, neglectors who have left it bare.

I silently watch for any signs of life preserved, above the fray, as though squinting through a thick, slowly lifting fog. Secretly desiring this corpse to rise, I summon its former beauty and grace.

As I pass through my backyard, I step over the broken glass, make my way around the side yard, through overgrown grass and back again, to the front. I am in a funeral procession, pacing slowly to the dead beat of despair.

As I depart, sadness besieges me. I solemnly wave goodbye, as with a therible of incense, blessing this house as once mine, while smoke from burning embers of yesterday rise and float away – forever gone.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email pauladamon@iw.net, follow her blog at www.my-story-your-story.blogspot.com and find her on Facebook.

2009© Paula Damon

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