T is for Ten Years

when did they change the back of the penny?

This evening, after a day of errands and a lobster roll dinner, we parked our truck in front of our home and saw a pair of teva-sandaled feet pointing toward the fence, the body hidden by the hedge, next to our wooden gate. Someone was peering into our yard. Strange, especially on our very quiet street.

I stepped out of the truck as I called, “Can I HELP you?” to see a small eight year old child come out from behind the bushes. Followed by a gangly eleven year old girl. Followed by a middle aged woman with a white cane who I recognized as the previous owner of our house.

She, the previous owner, whom I will nickname “Jill,”[1] pops by every now and then (though I haven’t spotted her in a couple of years) to visit her old home. I’ve found her unapologetically wandering our backyard over the years, full of regrets (and boundary issues), holding a small girl’s hand and then a few years later, an additional younger boy’s hand.

I wondered what it was that brought Jill to the house today–and then it became crystal clear: that tomorrow is 9/11, the tenth anniversary of the day that terrorists hijacked commercial planes and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon…and let’s not forget the plane that, thanks to its passengers, crashed into a field instead of the White House/Camp David/?.

The WTC buildings fell–they exploded, they crumbled, they melted, they pancaked, they flattened, they imploded. And along with them, thousands of innocents. And all day, all I could do, as I sat a nation’s width away from Manhattan, was watch the television, and write blog updates on my blog. [2]

9/11 was the day that escrow on this house was supposed to close (and didn’t, because the banks all closed, because our world as we knew it, was falling apart, and things would never ever be the same again). Our escrow actually closed unceremoniously a couple of days later, when the banks reopened.

And so Jill roamed, a decade later, the grounds of her previous and our current home with her children in tow on the anniversary of the day this house changed hands. “I should have never sold this house,” she said.

We briefly updated Jill–and she, us with news of her divorce, a new home, her children’s names. I told Jill we’d painted her muraled nursery room, the very one she and her husband-at-the-time had so cherished and that we’d promised to preserve–that well, we had wanted to have children when we bought the place, but heartbroken, we painted the colorful nursery room a very adult light green and turned it officially, into an office.

What a difference a decade makes. [3]

[1] Her name is not really Jill.

[2] I deleted my old blog, but as we all know, nothing on the internet is ever truly deleted, especially with things like the web archive site. So, if you care to read it, my blog post from 9/11/2011 is here.

[3] I thought about doing a blog post exclusively about 9/11, but I couldn’t bear to–I’ve thought about, and lived it, everyday for the last ten years. I’ve never forgotten, will never forget, and do not need reminding. And there are so many wonderful memorial posts, like Meg Cabot’s brilliant and tear inducing recollection of her NYC 9/11 or Steve Almond’s amazing Rumpus essay on the decade following 9/11 that make me feel like others speak with much more eloquence about this dreadful anniversary.


Joining Heather’s Abecedary, Fog City Writer, and other writers in working through the alphabet with short, memoir-like pieces. Except I’m going to go in reverse, beginning with “Z.” It’s called Alphabet: A History.



Filed under Alphabet: A History, Life, Memes

4 responses to “T is for Ten Years

  1. My parents built a house on Cape Cod, starting the year I was born. We sold it a while ago, but I do confess that occasionally, If I’m up on the Cape, I sometimes go by and look at it. I’ve never spoken to the people who have it now (they haven’t been there the couple of times I’ve done this, and I’m sure they don’t want to hear my opinion of the current color and the window boxes — window boxes!!). But I understand the urge.

    I would never do a blog post about 9/11 in a “the meaning of” sense. Too big, and I’m too close to it (I was in the opposite situation from yours — across the street, looking out a window). Your post is also the closest I’ll come to reading about it today, either.

    My then-girlfriend wrote a post on that day, about her frantic attempts to find out if I was okay. I’ve re-read it a couple of times since, but not today.

  2. This reminds me of one of my favorite Jackson Browne songs, Looking Into You. The lyrics have always moved me so much.
    “Well I looked into a house I once lived in
    Around the time I first went on my own
    When the roads were as many as the places I had dreamed of
    And my friends and I were one
    Now the distance is done and the search has begun
    I’ve come to see where my beginnings have gone

    Oh the walls and the windows were still standing
    And the music could be heard at the door
    Where the people who kindly endured my odd questions
    Asked if I came very far
    And when my silence replied they took me inside
    Where their children sat playing on the floor

    Well we spoke of the changes that would find us farther on
    And it left me so warm and so high
    But as I stepped back outside to the grey morning sun
    I heard that highway whisper and sigh
    Are you ready to fly?

    And I looked into the faces all passing by
    It’s an ocean that will never be filled
    And the house that grows older and finally crumbles
    That even love cannot rebuild
    It’s a hotel at best, you’re here as a guest
    You oughta make yourself at home while you’re waiting for the rest…”

    OK that’s a long quote but I have very profound feelings about people who go back to old places. I’ve gone to my old house where I grew up, and brought the family chocolate and flowers. (Why? A valentine? I couldn’t even explain it) Of course if this woman feels regret about selling the house, I understand the deep and conflicting emotion. It feels invasive and sad. I still regret selling my parents’ house even though it was the practical thing to do. It was my only history, the place where the life as I knew it began.

    And now I think I’m writing an entire blog post in your comments section!!

    • @Anthony: I can’t even imagine being across the street from all of it. Horrifying. Unbelievable. Glad you survived. And I too, have gone back to my childhood homes, but have stopped short of the front door.

      @Susan: I hear you. I go back, too–and if you, with your chocolate and flowers and polite asking, had stopped by, I might be compelled to open my doors. But when people stop by, and ask in a way that is very close to demand (and call me “close minded” when I refuse to invite them), it makes me wilt, even if there is a part of me that empathizes. She still calls it “their house,” and I know that she will be horrified by the changes we have made to the interior decor. I don’t want to be around for the epiphany that ensues! (though it would make for a good story, I don’t want that drama in my life).

  3. Pingback: Amnesia. « Karis Means Grace.

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