The Home We Leave

Manzi on the home town he left but wants to see remain:

I was raised there in the house that my grandfather built. Not “built” as in “hired people to build it to his specifications”, but built as in got carpenter’s tools, nails and wood, and hammered it together with his own hands. When I was a child, a major hurricane hit the New Jersey coast. We were used to hurricanes in late summer (June, too soon; July, keep an eye; August the worst; September, remember; October, it’s over). The power would always go out, and we would ride it out together in the living room with candles and flashlights. It was kind of fun, almost like an indoor campout. This storm started that way, but got much, much worse than normal. A hurricane can look kind of cartoonish on TV when you see an anchorman being blown around by the wind in its early stages, but if it’s a bad one, it can be pretty serious business near the water. This one got horrifying.

Trees were uprooted by the wind. Cars flipped over. A brick wall that had stood for decades collapsed on the beachfront. The eeriest part was when the eye of the storm passed over us, and we looked out into the bizarre moonlit stillness, knowing what was going to start again in a few minutes. I glanced up, frightened, at my father. He smiled and told me not to worry, that the house was built solid. Which, it turns out, it was.

This house sits on a street that changes slowly. When I would come back home as an adult, the houses around us still had the same families in them as on the day I was born. Our cousins lived directly across the street, but eventually sold their house to one of my grammar school classmates. When I was in my thirties, we finally took up the wall-to-wall carpeting that my parents had put down because they had a houseful of kids. Underneath it, in the living room where we had ridden out that storm, was a simple, beautiful, geometrically-patterned hardwood floor.