I found out this morning that the home I consider the most important one I’ve ever had burned down in the early morning hours. While I lived in a good number of homes growing up, this is the one I consider my childhood home.
My grandparents bought the home in 1978 when I was five years old. It was an old Air Force barracks from World War II. The city had purchased the training air base in my hometown from the federal government and turned it into a regional airport (now international airport and spaceport). In the 70s, the airport needed to expand. Instead of tearing down the structures, they put them up in a blind auction. My grandfather’s bid for the main barracks won because it was the simplest and had the easiest terms to understand. I remember him showing me the results of the blind auction, and I was astounded by the length and convoluted nature of the other bids. His was one sheet of paper that outlined he would buy the building for a certain amount (I forget the amount) and then move the building at his own cost. The cost of cleanup of the original site was responsibility of the airport, and the cost of prep for the new location was his to deal with.
This huge building (two stories, roughly fifty feet wide and over one hundred feet long) was then mounted up on wheels and driven from the airport, over I-20, and out to where it stood until this morning. Somewhere, there is a photo of the building being driven over the bridge spanning the interstate highway. I wish I had that photo. I have no idea what happened to it, and the last time I was in my childhood home, it had gone missing.
From 1978 until 1980, my grandfather tirelessly labored to turn the building into a house. When it was finally fit for living in, my grandparents moved into the house. As they could do, it instantly became a home. I spent many of my weekends there. I spent every summer vacation I can remember there (or on the road with my grandparents to galavant around Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado).
When I turned 12, I moved in with them full time.
I lived in this glorious and wonderful home for seven years. At 19, the itch “to become a man” and move out on my own became too strong. I’ve often regretted not staying there for a few more years. I feel I could have matured a little more, lived a better life when I was younger, and maybe I would have finished college before I was in my thirties. Alas, that was not to be, and I struck it out on my own.
We always called it “The Big House.” I wish I had some photos of it in its prime. Perhaps I do somewhere, but just haven’t gone through the 3-4 boxes of memorabilia from my childhood to find stuff like that. If I ever come across a good photo of The Big House, I’ll post it.
The most painful part about this whole thing is the news report that states my former home was “an abandoned building.” It’s true. No one has lived there since my grandfather passed away in 2002, and we sold the house and property about this time last year. That’s thirteen years that the home has deteriorated into “an abandoned building.” It hurts me to type that. It makes me cry. I can deal with the loss of the physical object. I knew I’d never set foot it in again. I got everything I could from that home — spiritually, emotionally, physically, and in comfort — but knowing that no one was there to love my old home in its final moments saddens me to my core.
I’ve been processing this news all day long. I’ve been trying to put into words my loss. I’ve been trying to find a eulogy for my childhood home.
To The Big House: I love you. I always will. You’ll be missed. Most of all, thank you for being there for me when I needed you. Even though you are no more than charred timbers and fallen ash, know that you warmed my heart, and I will always think fondly of you.