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March 07, 2001: Worn away

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I pass a house every day on the way to work. Most days I don't even turn my head to look - it's merely something alongside the road, and I'm too tired to care about the scenery that early in the morning.

But lately I've been looking more, sometimes even slowing down a bit just to get a closer view. It's the same sort of square box of a house as the rest of the homes on the farms that line the back roads to the freeway, except that no one lives in this one anymore. It's falling apart, slowly. The wall that faces the road has completely fallen away, and the roof sags deep in the middle, while what remains above the front room hangs down slightly, a paltry attempt at covering the room that is now exposed. The foundation is worn open and the house itself tilts slightly. It may once have been painted a different color, but time and weather have taken their toll and the exterior is now a defeated white, streaked with dirt and age.

The house draws me because it is slowly falling apart, at the same time that I am in the process of putting my own house together. While we watch the walls rise in the house we're building, this one's walls crumble and succumb to the weather, deteriorating bit by visible bit each day. Another heavy rain storm may do in the rest of what remains of its roof.

It draws me because when I'm tired my mind wanders, and I'm often tired passing that house. I wonder if someone, years and years ago, stood where that house now huddles and watched it grow from a pile of bricks and boards into the home it once was. I wonder if it was someone's dream, if this was where they imagined they'd live, watch their children grow, grow old in this place. I wonder if that someone worried as much about the details as I worry, if they were unable to make up their mind, or simply built it matter-of-factly. I wonder if the curtains in the windows were lace, or covered in pastel flowers and tied back with lengths of fabric; if family pictures adorned the walls on uneven lengths of wire looped around nails. I wonder if someone planted flowers in pots on the porch, or if they hung clothes on a line stretched between trees to dry. I wonder if someone stood in the kitchen and looked out on the farm and knew that she was *home*.

It's sad, in a way, to watch the death of what was once someone's home. I'll never know why it fell into the shape it's in - if someone died and no one wanted it; if it was simply rented out and then never taken care of. Or there may not have been any one reason why it became so neglected. Perhaps it just grew too old and tired.

I know that someday, years and years from now, there is the possibility that the house we are building - this shiny new home full of unimaginable possibilities, this place that I cannot wait to live in - may someday look something like this tattered remnant. It's not a pretty thought, and I hope that I'm long gone by the time it happens. I'd like to think that our house will last, carefully tended by all of its owners, loved just as much by all those who come after us as we will love it.

The reality, however, is that the day will come when even our beautiful home will begin to fall into disrepair, the roof buckling, beams worn away, and sometime in the future, someone will pass by and wonder too.

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