A House Lost to Time

It’s a weird feeling knowing your childhood house was demolished. I haven’t lived there since graduating high school, and my parents moved out long ago, but it was the closest thing we had to a family institution. It was a little white house that sat right off the highway eight miles west of Dripping Springs in the “blink and you might miss it” town of Henly, Texas.

I took a little drive out there last Saturday, before the house was torn down, listening to “Walnut Street,” the final track (penned by Walt Wilkins) from the new Drew Kennedy album, on repeat.

Got a little house on Walnut Street
The nights are quiet and the morning’s sweet
Got an old wood floor beneath my feet
That somebody’s grandfather built
I bet he used to keep his Lucky Stripes on this windowsill
While he planed and worked the wood until
He made silk from the yellow pine
I’ve got a paper that says this house is mine
But it ain’t … it belongs to time

It only took the first verse for long-forgotten memories to trickle back to mind. Memories of the nights working in my dad’s woodshop, underappreciating the time spent together; chinaberry wars; and the time I threw a football at Brady (probably out of anger), only he ducked and the ball smashed through our bedroom window. My dad made us pay for the new glass and showed us how to install it.

Before that, it belonged to my great-grandparents. I remember grownups around the table playing 42 on Sunday afternoon, Grandmama’s poundcake, and Papa’s orange slice candies and A&W root beer — things that feel like they exist in a time when I was too young to have had any business remembering.

The thing is, those walls witnessed moments all the way back to the early 1900s that no one will ever know about. It’s not like all the memories could be extracted, but now the house itself feels like it was just another brief moment in time. Knowing it’s been demolished is a weird feeling, sort of like you’ve been uprooted.

To be fair, it was beyond repair and nothing like it used to be. I’m still grateful the new owner allowed us an opportunity to snag a few parting mementos — mostly doors and old windows that we can repurpose into something to remind us of moments we shared with loved ones.

A piece of drywall I cut out of my old closet where I carved my name in 1996.

On a related note, it’s a testament to the power of music that a seemingly specific song like “Walnut Street” can still be universal in its ability to dredge up personal memories from the listener. I know I’ll never hear it again and not recall some forgotten feeling or experience from my childhood.

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