Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Last week I was nosing around on Google Earth in the Long Beach, California area, seeing what I could see. And what I saw was a street view of 1620 Gardenia, the house I grew up in. Over the years I’ve driven by it on occasions and the house, at least from the outside, always seems to be in good condition, although one time it had been painted exceptionally bizarre colors. But in the Google Earth street view, the house was back to its usual light color and, in fact, looked better than when my family lived in it from 1945 to 1964, because the dreary plain windows had been replaced with 6x6 small paned windows.

You’ve heard of people who said, “My whole life flashed before my eyes” – well, this is what happened to me when I saw that house. It was like all the joy and excitement of my youth flashed before mine. Those were such good years. My folks had passed through the terrors of the Great Depression and my dad’s business was taking off. We had a good-sized house, a den with a piano in it, a formal dining room, a bedroom for everybody, a big side yard for badminton and horseshoes, a fenced back yard for croquet and dogs. It was here where my baby brother was born, my scout troop met, where my uncle Bill sat with me on the couch night after night while he saved me from drowning in algebra, where I received my first kiss, where my folks fixed a huge pancake breakfast for all my friends after our high school graduation night dance, and where I introduced my folks to my husband-to-be. All that and more flashed through my mind.

I looked at the picture on Google Earth – and then I saw that there was a wooden sign in the front yard that said “For Sale.” I have always wanted to go back through that house and take another look at it. I contacted my cousin in North Carolina whose best friend is a real estate agent in Long Beach and asked her to find out if the house was still for sale. I didn’t get a “yes or no” answer, but I did get seven photographs of various rooms in the house and the yard.

I was so grateful to be able to take a peek, but what I saw made me realize that I really did not need to go inside the house. Everything was different. On the multiple listing page that came with the photos it said the master bedroom had a bathroom and a sitting area. Right there I knew I had better not go in. My first reaction was “What have they done to my house?” because we did not have that configuration. I suspect the den had been incorporated into the original bedroom my folks had (in those days there was no such thing as “master bedroom”) and a bathroom added. As I read on further, I could tell that much more had been changed.

What I realized is that I wanted to see it as it was, and that only exists now in my mind. I have no photographs of it, but I still know every nook and cranny. I do not want to see those nook and crannies gone. It did help me to read that there were 2000 square feet to the house. When I was little it seemed like a big house; the rooms were smaller than I remembered, but it was a good sized house. I also learned that it was built in 1916 and had a lot of history before we ever moved in to it. I thank my cousin’s friend for giving me enough material to get my good sense back. It is true that you can’t go home again. It was my home then, but it’s been someone else’s home for a long, long time. What's important is that I get to keep the good memories.

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