Tuesday 25 Oct 2016

Once a Home
AJ Robinson

As a writer, I often use many synonyms, which makes sense. After all, how many times can you say a character is happy or they shout something? You need variety in your writing to keep it fresh and interesting.

There are many different ways to refer to a house. It can be a residence, an apartment or a dwelling, one of the few “dw” words in the English language. A house may also be a building, a structure and so on.

Yet, the term “home” has a rather unique connotation to it. Home carries a certain degree of meaning. The meaning often revolves around safety, security and comfort.

There’s that old saying: “Home is where the heart is.” When people speak of home, it’s usually with love, fond childhood memories. Home has a deep, almost spiritual significance.

Many tribal peoples speak of their homeland as their mother. Their devotion to it is strong, deep and sacred. Some people are even willing to die for the lands or places they call home.

As a child, I had a home and it meant the world to me. When it sold, I felt a very real pain deep in my soul. To this day, I still look upon Martha’s Vineyard as my childhood home. I would give all that I possess, all that I am, to be able to return there.

Recently, my wife and I, again, had a home. We loved that home. It was nothing fancy; not some big mansion, not some place with a lot of rooms or in some ritzy neighborhood.

No, our home was a simple place, your typical three-bedroom, two-bath home. It didn’t even have a garage and the bedrooms were rather small. Yet, our daughter knew it as home, when she was in school. It was where she played with her friends and ours dogs, Romeo and Shakespeare. For my wife and me, that home was a palace, an affirmation we made good. We were middle class and our home was a place of which we were proud.

We enclosed the carport to make a playroom. We tore out the old carpet and put in tile. We added a doggie door so the “boys” could get out to the big backyard on their own. We mowed the lawn and tended the orange trees. We put in a nice little shed to store our outdoor tools. We liked to collect antique toys and decorated our home with them.

It was the home we intended in which to stay. When Shakespeare grew old and we had to have him put to sleep, we laid him to rest in the backyard. In time, we put Romeo beside him, so that the two might be together for all time. My wife even said it was where she would pass away.

Yet, today, what was once a home is now a house, an empty house. We’d been careful in our mortgage, not borrowing more than we needed. We kept the monthly payment reasonable or so we thought.

The one event we hadn’t expected was I lost my job, as a civil engineer. After all, people are always building things. How could I ever not be able to find work?

Well, with the state not building roads and bridges, who needs no civil engineers? With a glut of homes, on the market, due to the real estate bubble bursting, no one needs engineers to design and build housing. With business bad, no one needs engineers to create shopping plazas or business developments.

Now, my writing and part-time work as a bartender are all I have for an income. Between that and my wife’s disability, we couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage. The bank will soon take the house.

We sold everything we could and packed up the rest. We moved into a small apartment. I took a last walk through the old place, the other day. My footsteps echoed throughout the large empty spaces. I saw the tiles that needed tending, a few spots that needed a touch of paint and the lawn getting taller. Oh well, not my problem or concern, not anymore.

Finally came the time to leave and there was one task, one duty, I felt compelled to carry out. I put the old dog bed in front of the fireplace hearth. Setting one of the doggie toys on the corner of the bed, I filled the water dish and set it off to the side. Yeah, a hollow gesture, maybe. Still, it was important to me. After that, I went outside to say a final farewell to the boys.

As I turned the key in the front door lock, I knew that the place was no longer a home. Now our once home was merely a house.

It hurt.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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