There’s something special about one’s childhood home. I was born in Bakersfield, California. When I was two, my parents moved out to Derby Acers. Just to give you an idea of this area, some people called it “Dirty Acers.” But to me it was home, and a wonderful home at that.
My parents were in their very early twenties when they bought a brand new, double-wide mobile home and placed it on a quarter acer of land. They put up a nice fence and divided the backyard for a horse corral. I remember having a swing set, a tree to climb in, a little area designated for our doughboy pool, an orchid for my mom, a long, extended drive to skateboard down, and still plenty of room for a young boy’s invisible adventures. It was in that backyard that my best friend Matt and I fought off alien soldiers who hovered over us in a giant flying saucer. Other days we were fighting off medieval warriors who were invading our castle as I was a knight and Matt was a wizard.
A dog named Boy barked in excitement at the imaginary scenes as my mom baked a cake inside waiting for my dad to get home from work.
I lived in that house until my family moved to Bakersfield at age 10, so the majority of my innocent childhood was spent there.
It really was a perfect place to grow up as a kid. I left my bike in the front yard, and there was never a thought about someone stealing it. Doors were often left open for a sweet breeze, and most of the time they were unlocked. We had horses, cats, bunnies, dogs, chickens, a pig, and three-wheelers.
The foothills and mountains that surrounded the valley were close and always clear, and there was something special about the sunset that fell down over them. There was time then too. Time to watch cartoons. Time to play outside. Time to stare at my mother as she made dinner or organized her records and folded laundry. Time to wait on the front porch to see if I could spot my dad’s work truck driving home on the main road a few blocks away. Time to think.
My younger sister, Amber, was about seven years younger than me. Since we moved to Bakersfield when I was nine, and she was around three, she didn’t get to experience the same childhood I did.
A few years ago, when I was in my early thirties, and she in her twenties, we made plans to grab lunch as we tried to do every few weeks. Christmas was approaching, and we were looking for some place special to eat. I thought up the idea of driving out to Taft for lunch and another 15 minutes to Derby Acers to show her where she first lived. I was surprised that she wanted to join me on this adventure. She had recently gotten engaged, and we would get to use the long drive to catch up.
The road went from straight, long lanes to hilly roads and then to a small two-lane road surrounded by oilrigs and foothills. Turning into our, I guess you could call it a neighborhood, the road faded to dirt. My sister jerked around in my truck as we went over the uneven dirt.
We drove past my old best friend’s house, Matt, and then turned left. There in the middle of the dirt road, I stopped in reverence to show my sister her first home.
After a few seconds of silence and an odd look on my sister’s face, she said, “Why did Mom and Dad live here?”
I looked to examine my childhood home. The fence had fallen. The grass has turned to dirt. The orchid was gone to just an empty dry space with scattered weeds. The pool has vanished. No dog barked eagerly to see me. It was a pathetic sight.
I tried to explain to Amber what it was once like—the fine details of every bit of energy that Mom and Dad put into it to make it a fine home for their two children. But then I realized something.
It was more accurate in my memory than it was in real life. What now stood wasn’t my childhood home, for it was gone forever.
Or maybe, it was forever saved in my memories, where it will always be real.
That’s the moment I understood that the past can’t be revisited in real life but only in the heart.
I looked at my sister. Graduated from college. Engaged. Grown. Accomplished. Faithful. Kind. Wise. She is what I still have from that past. Not some house.
We drove to Taft and ate at a Mexican food restaurant. It was mostly empty inside. There was a huge Christmas tree with colorful lights across from our table. My sister and I laughed and smiled as we told stories and revisited jokes while eating our food. And I enjoyed the present before me—my grown little sister who would only hold the same last name as me for a few more months.
Let’s be thankful for the past and hold it dearly in our hearts, but let’s be thankful for all God’s given us in the present and never neglect for a moment what we have now because in time, it too will be gone.