This is my friend, Goldie, gazing at a house that replaced the house where she lived in Denver for more than 50 years. Her former house, which she shared with her husband and his parents, was demolished last year and replaced with this modern version. If Goldie didn't know she was standing on Umatilla Lane in Denver, in the exact spot where her house once stood, she would have thought she was on a different street, in a different city or maybe living there was all just a dream. Goldie will 90 in November so she's experienced a lot of changes, including the death of her husband, Tony, yet looking at this brick and metal box that replaced her charming brick bungalow had to be a jolt. Goldie said she wished she had never sold the house. It was her biggest regret, she said. We all have those.
The small photo above shows myself and a group of friends back in the 1980s standing in front of Goldie's house, the one that was torn down to make room for the hipster model with the orange door and chairs. Goldie used to have a comfy old arm chair on her front porch and a glider, the kind you could swing back and forth.
This is the house I lived in right next to Goldie's house. It looks just as it did in 1983 when I first moved there. It probably looked just like this when it was built in the 1920s. Oh maybe there's a new coat of paint on the railing, a trellis, but not much else has changed. At least not on the outside. When I stood in front of this house last week it was easy to remember the idealistic young woman I had once been. It made me want to renew some old dreams that age has convinced me are impossible. Like the house, I am still standing, too. Though I don't look as I did in 1983. Darn it.
Yet, how I wish Goldie's house was the same. It seems cruel to have mine unchanged and her house not just changed, but gone. Here they are side by side. The neighborhood has undergone a gentrification, mostly young professional people who all look as if they jog, do yoga and have bouncy furry dogs. I tease Goldie that we wouldn't meet the age requirements to live on Umatilla Lane, anyway.
Houses are just big objects we can't take with us when we die, and yet they contain so many memories. I have never lived one place for 50 years so it's difficult for me to truly understand what Goldie must be thinking when she sees a garage has replaced her back yard.
Instead of the lush green lawn that Goldie's husband mowed for fifty plus years, is a cement driveway and, again, that hipster orange. I'd rather see Goldie's back yard that once held her dogs, a turtle, a dove and a garden as well as the little workshop where Tony liked to putter.
Still, time marches on and, if anything, this has taught me not to linger too long looking behind me at the shadows and instead keep my face to the sun. Some day I will return to Denver and my little red bungalow might be gone too, replaced with another sleek home with orange doors. Or maybe neon green. Who knows what color will be hip then. Possibly polka dots or glitter. No matter. It is out of my control.
My memories, though, are like this tree that remains on Umatilla Lane. Once, a branch from this tree fell on my Camaro and dented my hood. Goldie remembers a snow plow sliced the base of the tree. Looking at tree was like looking at an old friend.
I remember how soft snow coated the branches in the winter. In the Spring the leaves turned bright green and provided my house shelter from the heat of the day. When the leaves dropped in the fall, my front yard sparkled gold and orange. A real orange. Not painted to look cool. Goldie and I were both pleased to see the tree remained and we admired her. The tree reminds me of an older woman. Strong and tall and beautiful, able to roll with the changes, even if her base gets a dent in it now and then. I'm ashamed to say I don't even know what kind of tree this is, but it's type matters less to me than it's survival.
All this reminiscing made Goldie and me work up an appetite. We invited Faydie, on the left, to join Goldie and me for some Vietnamese food. Goldie met Faydie at the senior citizen apartments where they both live.
Pretty soon we were laughing and talking and eating noodles and rice, making new memories which will join the ones Goldie and I have from Umatilla Lane. Hopefully, there will be time to make more. In the end, houses don't matter as much as people, anyway.