My parents bought the white duplex, moving us into the right side and renting out the left. It was a turn-of-the-century home, similar to my grandparents’ one, with a large front porch and an unheated second floor. I lived here longer than in any other house in my life: two calendar and school years. My sister and I both walked to school – a mile for me and a bit farther for her. My parents converted a downstairs room into their bedroom, giving my sister, brother, and me our own bedrooms upstairs. There was a small field off our back yard, and a river full of rocks to jump less than a mile away. It was just off Rte 11, a working class street in a poor town; I could ride my bike to Lone Star Avenue to visit friends and grandparents, or head on the path behind the A&P and end up at the town cemetery. It wasn’t perfect, but I loved it anyway.
A young couple with two babies rented the left side of the house. They had a beat-up car and no phone, and they argued. They left after a while, first the man and then the woman and kids. My father was out to sea for the better part of a year, but even a child my age could tell the difference between a loving if absent father and an absentee parent. It was my first close-up view of a family falling apart and falling through the cracks. It wasn’t my last.
I think about the side-by-side living experiences. Our homes were mirror images of each other, but our home life strikingly different. To this day, I look at the houses I pass while walking to town and I wonder what life is like for the people living behind the facades. I say a quiet prayer for the love and happiness of those who live there.
Lord, bless this home and all who enter it. Amen.