The tale of two boyhood homes

Last month I took a trip—back in time.

I visited the hometown I grew up in, or at least grew to be in third grade in.

Leary's boyhood home

Before my earliest memories, my family moved to Alva, a rather ordinary small town for northern Oklahoma. Farmers, laborers and a fledgling teaching community supporting the main campus of Northwestern Oklahoma State University comprised its modest population of 6,000. For me, as a young tike, it was like living in Norman Rockwell’s neighborhood. Walks to the cinema at the city square to ogle Raquel Welsh in One Million Years BC. Excursions to the brooks and ponds beyond the local farmer’s COOP to catch crawdads. Games of baseball in the school yard where I’d wait last in line to be chosen. I remember crying the day my dad told me we were moving to Colorado.

Forty-five years later, I returned. And I discovered some things.

I discovered the house I helped my dad build was still there, though it looked so much smaller today. (Yes, I know. “Helped” is a generous word. I handed him nails and such.) I found that the theatre was still just down the street, though Raquel had moved on. And my school was unchanged, just as I remembered it, save the locked fence protecting its charges. In those moments of discovery I was transported back to my boyhood.

Until I drove down the next block where my Aunt and Uncle had lived. Back then I had spent many days shuttling back and forth between my house and theirs. The doors are always open for family and I remember frequently taking advantage of their welcome.

But there was no more welcome. Not only because they had passed on many years ago, but also because there was little vestige of the place they built. The roof was collapsing, the walls were askew and weeds had grown around it as if to take a final revenge for its groundbreaking so many years ago.

Two homes. One still barely standing. The other advanced to its demise.

So it is with anything man builds. Gravity eventually has its way. Like them, I will, one day become a distant memory—at least among men. To long for more is to ask for eternity on earth and that is not where it’s meant to be lived. My job here is not to secure a legacy for myself, but to be meaningfully connected to those I love here and now.

It is they who look upon the house I’m building and find their welcome.

“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” — Apostle Paul (1 Timothy 6:7)

What have you discovered through a homecoming?

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4 thoughts on “The tale of two boyhood homes

  1. That was such a delightful and meaningful read for me, I just had to pause and say Thank you to Leary. All the best, jhall

  2. Leary, great post! I know I often long for my childhood and the house I grew up in. I cherish the wonderful memories of my neighbors and parents. I, too, have gone back to see my old house. The new owners even let us come in and walk around. They’ve made many, many changes and additions. But it was fun to be there and even more fun to share the experience with my parents. Lots of great memories, lots of great times!

    Thanks for a walk down memory lane!

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