Blogs > Laura Kessel's blog

Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hard to feel at home after break-in

It was a throwaway line. Over the years, I’ve thought about it many times.

A year before my father died, the movie “Grosse Pointe Blank” hit theaters. In it, John Cusack plays a professional killer who goes home to Michigan to attend his high school reunion because it coincides with a big job.

Yes, that kind of job.

We learn along the way that Cusack’s character, Martin, is in therapy because he’s having trouble dealing with what he does for a living.

As soon as he hits his hometown, he heads over to see his house. Only it’s not there anymore.

It’s been replaced by a convenience store, called Ultimart.

He walks around the store, wide-eyed, trying to figure out what to do. Because he doesn’t know, he calls his shrink, Dr. Oatman.

“I’m standing where my, uh, living room was and it’s not here because my house is gone and it’s an Ultimart! You can never go home again, Oatman... but I guess you can shop there.”

You hear that phrase a lot — you can’t go home again. It is based on a book of that name by Thomas Wolfe. The book details what happens when a guy writes a book and uses the name of his hometown as the setting.

It isn’t pretty, and needless to say, he can’t go home again.

In my case, I’m afraid to go “home” again. In this case, though, the home in question is my mom’s house.

I haven’t lived there in a long time, but the house where you grow up is always supposed to feel like home, isn’t it?
That feeling ended last week when someone broke into my mom’s house and ransacked the place.

It’s a strange feeling when you realize someone you don’t know has been walking around your house, digging through your belongings.

In most cases, they just tossed stuff around. Drawers, doors and cupboards were opened. Boxes and bags were opened. Beds were tossed, presumably because they hoped she’s the type of person who keeps her life savings under the mattress.

But they did more harm than they realize.

Many of my most precious belongings still reside at my mother’s house.

I found my favorite doll lying on the floor in the middle of an upstairs closet. I found my doll-sized wooden rocking chair lying underneath the door the thieves ripped off its hinges for reasons I have yet to figure out. Maybe it was just in the way as they ran through the house.

I found half of the cover of a book my uncle gave me when I was in elementary school lying on the floor of my brother’s old bedroom.

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle details the story of a caterpillar who makes his way through the week while eating various fruits and vegetables before pigging out on Saturday. He gets sick from his excess and only eats a single leaf on Sunday before he builds a cocoon and transforms into a beautiful butterfly.

If I attempted to remember how many times I read that book as a child, I’d probably fall a few thousand short. It was the subject of Show-and-Tell in school and stayed close by when I made my way through high school, simply because it was a gift from a beloved uncle.

When my nieces were born, I toyed with giving it to them but couldn’t bear to part with it because of all the good memories.

Then, last Saturday, I found its ripped cover lying in the middle of the floor.

Though I’d already been in the house for an hour or so, studying my mom’s belongings while trying to inventory what had been stolen, it wasn’t until I saw the cover that the tears began to flow.

I knew the thieves had been there, I knew they’d touched belongings in my childhood home. But it didn’t hurt until I realized they’d destroyed something I treasured.

And, in the days since, I’ve come to realize that what they really took was my peace of mind.

I guess you really can’t go home again, because it just doesn’t feel that safe anymore. My mom’s there and the comfort she offers is still very real.

From now on, if I want to go home again, I suppose I’ll have to go there in my mind, because her house doesn’t really feel like it anymore.

To leave an online comment, go to
Twitter: @Lauranh


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home