The Ghost House of My Childhood by Alan Lightman

Courtesy of the New York Times | 08.22.15 | Alan Lightman
Katrien De Blauwer
Katrien De Blauwer
THE distant earth bristles with tiny imitations of houses and roads as I slide through the air in the silver ghost, a miracle of science. Now that my second parent has passed away, all things seem strange. Am I awake or asleep? I am flying back to Memphis, the place of my childhood, to settle the last of my father’s affairs and to see one final time the house where we all lived.
I sit at a table at Panera Bread. After lunch, I will get into my rented car and drive out to West Cherry Circle. I was hoping my brothers would join me on this trip to our family home, but they don’t want to see it again. We sold the house months ago.

I look out a window toward Poplar Avenue and remember the diner that once stood across the street, the Ohman House, where my friends and I used to go late at night, after high-school dances and parties, to eat hamburgers smothered with onions, hash brown potatoes and black bottom pie.

It’s time. I get into the rented car. When I last visited the house, two years ago, my father was waiting to greet me. He sat in the den in his wheelchair, wearing a warm sweater even in April and soft bedroom slippers, an open book on his lap.

I turn onto West Cherry Circle, drive past familiar houses. Flowers are blooming, it’s spring. But something is wrong. The house isn’t here. There’s a hole in space where the house used to be. Slowly, I inch up the driveway and park the car. Something is terribly wrong. I feel as if I’m not in my body any longer. My body is a distant, cold moon. There was a two-story house here, with pink brick walls and a porch with white posts and dormer windows. I can see right through the empty air to bushes and trees on the other side. And on the ground where the house was, new grass. Not a single brick or splinter or piece of debris. Continue Reading

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