By odd coincidence, we had a chance to return a favor this past weekend. As we were going about the business of quietly celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of moving into our home by mowing the lawn in front of it and sitting on the couch inside of it after mowing that lawn, the phone rang. It was someone calling to tell us that our dog had wandered out the gate that had been left wide open. That person just happened to be out in front of the house at the time, and that person just happened to be the lady who used to live in our house before we did.
To be more precise, this woman lived in our house with her two sisters, two brothers, and her parents when she was growing up. She grew up there, amongst the rose bushes and trees and lack of closets with only one bathroom for the seven of them. She was also the person who took pity on us as new home buyers who desperately wanted to get ourselves settled into our new digs before our new baby joined us. She got us a key and let us in to paint and begin to feather our nest before the actual move-in date. And she was standing outside our gate asking to come in and look around.
Last summer I intruded briefly on the hospitality of the people who own the home where I grew up in Boulder, Colorado. I found many things just the way they were when I left. Others had been painted over or removed entirely. This was essentially the experience she had as she wandered from front door to back, out into the back yard, and finally looping back to the front again. She described the daily flow of life back in the 1960's, and noticed where things were missing or changed. There was never a trace of sadness in her tour, it was more of a chance for her to return to the place where she was raised: an opportunity to recharge her nostalgia batteries. When she left, she asked if she could take a brick from the chimney which we had taken down a few years back. It seemed like a reasonable trade for all her memories.
When she was gone, my wife and I wondered what it might be like for our son to return to his old house after he grew up and moved away. No rush on that.