My dear brother,
Thank you for your recent letter regarding the scheduled demolition of our boyhood home. It’s obvious that you are upset and love our house dearly. However, I will not be joining your efforts to save it. In my mind, to be brutally honest, it is high time the wrecking ball knocked it down once and for all. I shall dance upon the demolition site.
To be quite honest, the childhood I spent in our house was one of constant blinding terror, owing entirely to the location: in the middle of our street. Not along our street or recessed from our street or up a winding footpath from our street like other houses. No. Our house? In the middle of our street. I mean, whose idea was that? A disgruntled city planner’s?
While other people have childhood memories of playing in their garden or riding bikes on the sidewalk, I only remember the constant stream of cars racing by on our street—a major arterial, really—right outside our front door. Horns honking, engines roaring, tires squealing, all located a few perilous feet from where Father and Mum were raising a house full of children. I remember when Mum would see us off to school with a small kiss. I knew I would miss her in lots of ways, but mostly I was thinking of how I would have to dodge an onslaught of speeding cars just to get to school and another onslaught trying to get home. I missed Mum because I knew I might never see her again. Why didn’t we ever move somewhere safe? Have you ever stopped to think about that?
And then of course there were the collisions. I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that a week never went by without some careless or drunken motorist driving straight into our house, crashing through a wall and destroying a room or two. And though they were at fault, the fact remained that our house was in the middle of our street. And that’s not where houses should be. That’s where cars should be.
But as I think back to those days, both in this letter and in the extensive therapy sessions I undergo weekly for my posttraumatic stress disorder, what troubles me most is how normal everyone seemed to think the whole thing was. Everyone was having such a very good time, such a fine time, such a happy time. Father would cheerfully dress for work (someone had to pay for all that new masonry, after all), Mum would go about her housekeeping, and the kids would play downstairs as if they hadn’t a care in the world. As if being crushed by an errant Buick were something other than inevitable. I wonder if it all got to be too much for Sister after a while. She was sleeping all the time, it seemed, and sighing in her sleep.
Me, I concentrated on just getting out of our house in order to save my sanity and simply preserve my life. I told everyone I had “a date to keep” and couldn’t hang around, then ran off, dodged off-peak traffic, and spent quiet, contemplative evenings sitting on park benches and resting my nerves. No one ever questioned me about this date ruse even though, when you think about it, you need a car to take a girl on a date, and, owing to the location of our house, we could never own a car.
So, in short, no, I won’t fight the demolition of our house in the middle of our street, and I won’t mourn its passing. To me it was not “our castle and our keep,” like you describe. And while it was “where we used to sleep,” there is a difference between sleep and rest. I just can’t believe they left it standing as long as they did. And again, why did they put a house in the middle of a street in the first place? It’s madness.