Burning Down the House in the Middle of the Street

Here I go again on the road. Hoping my flight is not delayed or better yet not cancelled. My son asked me, for the first time ever, if he could go with me on a business trip. I don’t know if he was looking to avoid going to school or he overheard me talking about how snowy St. Louis will be or if he really wanted to be with me, but it touched my heart deeply. I love travel. I hate leaving my baby at home. When I don’t travel for a long time I long to be on the road. When I am on the road back to back week after week, I long to be home. I know they say home is where the heart is, but it’s more complicated than that when you are a frequent business traveler that likes her work and you have a baby at home.

When I was a very young child we lived in a rented house in Cincinnati, Ohio.  I was around four years old. I barely remember that time. One key memory that has stayed with me from that time was the fire that engulfed our house. I recall someone holding me in their arms. I recall seeing big men in big hats all about us. I recall the fiery red nighttime sky. I recall the loud voices, shouts and cries. It was a scary moment but I was being held tightly and securely. I didn’t know it at the time, but the fire that laid waste to our house was deliberately set by someone in the community. Furthermore, the fire started in my room. Someone had thrown something into my slightly open window.  My mom nearly died rescuing me. I never understood the fear that my mom must have felt. I look at my son now and know that if anything like that were to happen to him I would go insane. I didn’t understand either how it must have felt to have one’s home, that is supposed to be safe, be violated. We had been singled out in the neighborhood. I am not too sure why. It could have been because we were newcomers to the neighborhood. It could have been because we were one of the few Hispanic families in the neighborhood. It could have just been random. No way of knowing. My mom never told me what the arson investigation found. All I know is that we never lived in another house together. We lived in apartments thereafter and when we eventually did move into a house, we both did so separately.

The very first house I lived in had been burned down. Every time I hear the Talking Heads’ song “Burning Down the House”, I think back to the time I was securely held against a raging set of flames. That house fired scared my mother heavily and she never really wanted to live in a house again. Years later, I was pregnant with my beautiful little boy and bought into the American Dream that I needed a house in which to raise my son.  I also wanted to bring my mother to my newly-bought house so that she could just ease into her senior years. I wanted to pay back all her hard work by providing her a comforting home where she would be safe.  Thus, I bought a house in the middle of the street, just like that song by Madness. It is a cute house with a large frame although kind of small. It is a pure starter home. Yet it was perfect for starting a family and cradling my mom.  I was a bit worried about the forest behind the house. I was scared of forest fires starting up just like they would happen to do with great frequency in the Hills of California.

I spruced up the house. The various rooms were painted either yellow or red. The basement was further developed to have insulated floors and a new full bathroom.  I was excited to finally bring my mom to my6 house. Unfortunately, after her first visit to see how she would acclimate to the house, she went back to her place and never came back to my house. She died of a stroke after suffering kidney failure.  Although she never was able to live in my house-what would have been our house- I still feel her spirit there. I especially feel her in the basement when I am running on the treadmill. Every time I go to the basement I look around at how it has been turned into a mancave for my son (complete with a play kitchen) and a workout room for myself. I can’t help but think of her every time I run.   On the treadmill, I run as fast as I can so that I can be healthy and be there for my son as he grows up. At times, I am afraid I won’t be around for when he gets married, has his first child or has his first house. My house is his house. It is because of him that I now live in a house that lies in the middle of the street. He is my American Dream. Wish my mom were here to share that with me. Nonetheless, this little house is now our sanctuary.

Our house, was our castle and our keep
Our house, in the middle of our street

Inspired by the daily prompt of home.

Other thoughts on Home:

Empty space? By words n’ pics

Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

The Camino Plan

Vivir para contar

Our House: slugs and Stairs

The Bohemian Rockstar’s untitled Project

The wandering poet

19 replies »

  1. Very powerful story. Can’t imagine being in a situation like that, especially when it’s not even your fault. Hopefully, your son won’t face what you faced.


    • Thanks for your note. I too hope my son won’t face those situations. Its going to be interesting to see him grow up in such a different environment than I did. I am fascinated by the psychology of it all.


  2. I’m teary-eyed. What a traumatic event that must have been for you and your family. I’m also very touched by your desire to bring your mother to live with you. I’m sure she is watching over you as you workout and keep healthy to be there for your son. Wonderful post!


  3. My partner and I have an Interior Design business and we know first hand just how important a home is to others. We, ourselves have a wonderful home filled with fun and a man-cave -dwelling big son. Home is such a personal thing. To define a home is quite difficult because each of us require different things from it. Suffice to say that home is generally a practical choice that over time develops like a fine wine maturing. We fill it with the things that define us as a family and as individuals and it is impossible to duplicate. Great post. B


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