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Monday, 01 December 2014

The Julian House

By Marcy Belson

I wanted to see it one more time, one last time. I knew it was now or never; there would be no more road trips for us after this one.

We left El Centro right after lunch, the reunion lunch with my co workers from the Department of Employment. Forty retirees were invited. I knew three people who attended.

It wasn't hard to leave, although I was truly glad to see those three again. It's like the house, I probably won't see them again.

We drove through the hot desert, close to 100 degrees that day, but with air conditioning in the car, it was of little concern to us. After a lifetime of living in the desert, we knew to never start a trip without water and now, a working cell phone.

In the "old" days, you relied on the kindness of other travelers if you broke down. Now, no one stops to help. Who would? Times are different.

Up the mountain grade to the high desert, then the winding road to Julian. It is about an hour and a half from the valley city to the mountain town of Julian. The lake, Cuyamaca Lake, is just a pond now. As a child, I fished there in a boat with my parents. Blue gill were plentiful and it was a peaceful place to spend a day.

Finally, we rounded a corner and there it was. The house that my father built, the Clark house. He had torn down the gold rush cabin that we spent summers in during the 1940s and '50s. Then, with the help of a few contractors doing the plumbing and electrical work, he built a two story house that jutted out from the hillside behind it.

It had a long porch, overlooking Main Street. That porch had a homemade swing for two people with pillows. The perfect place to spend an afternoon with a book and a lemonade.

My father told my husband that he had put the very best roof possible on the house and that we would not have to replace it for many years. The implied message was that as the only child, I would be inheriting the house in the far distance future.

Fast forward 30 years. My dad, with a undiagnosed brain tumor, sold the house for $10,000. My mother let him. He died in six months. The house was gone. The next time I saw one of the cousins, I was told the house had been converted to a HeadStart children's center.

I said I never wanted to see it again. But now, in my old age, I did want to see it one more time. I have no idea who owns it now. It had been painted a dark color, and a large fence enclosed the property. There were half a dozen cars parked in the rear.

I drove down the alley looking for the black walnut tree my father had carried home from Arkansas one year. I don't think it was there. They are messy trees, someone probably cut it down.

And so I have seen the house one more time. There were no tears, no thought of going to the door and asking to go inside. It was part of another time.

My mother had cancer, living in that house. I used to drive up and spend the weekends, cleaning and cooking. My father was not happy there. He came and went, in retirement, looking for family and friends that were no more.

I'm not sad that I don't own the house. I hope there is happiness there now.

Calif trip Oct 2014 013MBelson

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Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Hope that seeing the house gave you some closure.

Fine vignette. It reminds me of Tom Wolfe's "Look Homeward, Angel."
"You can't go home again."

Walked past the old family home about 10 years ago and the owners happened to come out. We talked about the history of the house my parents built. They were friendly, but didn't invite me in. Probably just as well.

Houses are where memories are made, good and bad, and seem to have a life of their own.

In a visit to Germany, my husband's whole town was no more a part of Germany, and all they had buried was forever lost.
Nice story, Marcy.

I dream about my childhood home all the time but I can't bring myself to go see it. I'm told the new owners ripped out the gardens, badminton court and grape arbors in order to put a house on the property. The neighbors were heartbroken and so am I.

Every once in a while I go back to the town where I grew up and spend an hour or so driving around, reminiscing with myself about who lived where and did what. I said goodbye to the place years ago; this is more a confirmation of memories than anything else. Yours is a much more meaningful exercise, Marci.

I hope there is happiness in your old home...AND I hope there is happiness in the place where you now live. We have to make our happiness go with us, don't you think?

Thanks to all of you who commented...and to Fritzy Dean,
yes, there is happiness in our home and lots of laughter!

Funny you wrote at this time when I just wanted to visit my parents apartment where they lived for 25 yrs prior to their passing. It was right near our home.

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