Recently, I’ve just moved out of the house that I have lived in for 20 years. Not to move out on my own just yet, but to my grandparents for a few months while our family home is being demolished and renovated. Moving out of a house is entirely different to demolishing. In knocking a house down, you remove the tangible memories.
I didn’t think I would have such a strong bond to an inanimate object such as a house, but then I realised quite vividly that it was living. It was living vicariously through my family and myself. It came to life through the events that it housed, the birthdays, the tantrums, the highs, the lows and all the Christmas celebrations, all the birthdays and gatherings it held for twenty years. To think all these vivid memories will be demolished and thrown away is heartbreaking. Because, now, they will just be just memories sinking away in the back of my mind until they are eventually forgotten and replaced with new ones.
My mother is the sweetest person I know. While packing our things, she was always holding back tears. She would always pass me along pictures of me when I was a child (mostly naked) and mention how cute I was back then (curious as to what she thinks of me now). This was the home that she and my father had lived in for 25 years of their lives. They married and entered this home. Their children were brought to this home . They loved this home.
It was the same for my father and sister. However, both are a tad more guarded with their emotions. I could see my dad’s strained face as we left our home for the last time before it would be rubble. I’m sure I saw a mix of relief (because we finally were able to move all of our shit out of it) and sadness that this beginning chapter of our lives is being bulldozed away. My sister was just happy to get a new bedroom with a walk in wardrobe.
The thing about memories is that they will always be intangible. The only ways to trigger memories is to make an association with something tangible such as a photograph.
We didn’t take one.
Throughout my life, I have always taken photos (with my parents holding the camera and myself being centre stage with my sister). My life has been documented up to this point, right now, with photobooks filled with my chubby cheeked face. Now, there is a gap where my old house used to be and where it will be standing in the future. The impending dread that I felt when I realised I would no longer be stepping into a house which I have known for 20 years is not only saddening, but terrifying. The fact that we have no ability to fully remember each and every facet of that house is terrifying. The fact that I may not remember things that happened in that house is terrifying. I fear the loss of memory to a tangible place in my life which has protected me for twenty years of my life.
Why do we cling to these intangible memories that hold not only a place in time, but in our hearts and minds? With the ability to be forgotten, are they even useful to us?
The brilliant thing about this memory is that it does hold a place in my heart, and it will forever. Not having a photograph of the houses exterior makes me sift through memories of the inside of the house, the living entities which resided in it. Now, I go through my photos on my phone, scattered throughout other cameras and physical photographs, trying to put together images like a misshapen puzzle. In this, I am attempting to fully recognise and sculpt what my house looked like in the past and can being to recollect events and instances of happiness with this house.
The reason I fear losing the memory of this house is the fear of losing my past self and selves. Five year old Kris started school from this house. Twelve year old Kris started high school every morning from this house. Kris had his birthday parties here, his gathos here, his past and present friends here. Kris is not only leaving behind his room, his kitchen and part of his life, but a construction of his past which has sculpted who he is today. This is what I fear. By knocking down this house, I fear that I will forget who I once was and therefore, disassociate past memories that I can use to help me through the future.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, this home represents a new beginning. It will be a rebirth that has been so long in the making, no amount of time could have prepared me for this. I myself have refused to see what this new house even looks like until it is built. My first entrance and look of the house will be a complete surprise.
The thing about memories is that they will indeed one day fade, however, moments in time shape who we are as individuals, staying with us forever.