Gray Matter


You Can’t Go Home Again

RT Cunningham | August 30, 2020 (UTC) | House and Home

home“You can’t go home again” is an idiom that means your home has changed so much since you left it that it’s no longer the same place. In my case, I never wanted to go home again (except to visit).

My Uncle John (the only uncle with that name that I know of) built the house after World War II, but I don’t know what year it was completed.

Home Construction

Uncle John built the house and installed everything it needed, including the plumbing and electrical work. The original, front part of the house was built with handmade adobe bricks, plaster and wood. It was a small three-bedroom, one-bath house, with a swamp cooler and ductwork for air distribution. He later added an extension to the back, creating a dining room, a den and a larger kitchen. The original kitchen was converted to a bedroom.

A shelf partition, with the center portion shaped like a doorway, separates the living room from the dining room. A large cement patio was added to the back, which included an elevated fishpond. I don’t know when the studio apartment was built on the adjoining lot. From what I understand, all the wood in the house came from a Japanese internment camp when the camp was closed after World War II.

My parents bought the home from Uncle John in 1963. Although it’s the second home I lived in, it’s the first home I can remember. I left when I was still 17 years of age, by enlisting in the military, and I probably spent less than two months there cumulatively since then. I haven’t set foot in that house since 2005, the year before I moved to the Philippines, four years before my father died and five years before my mother died.

The Home Today

I included a picture of the house from the street, cropped from a Google Street View image from 2016, so you can see for yourself. It’s still standing, obviously. My youngest sister was living in the home with her three children when my mother died, and they’re still living there. I spotted a video on her youngest daughter’s Facebook profile recently and it doesn’t look any better.

The home was substandard when I lived there in 1978 and it’s still substandard. It’s a four-bedroom house with one bathroom. At one time, there were eleven people (nine children) living in that house. Can you imagine what waiting for a turn in the bathroom was like? My brothers and I were very familiar with outdoor urination.

It would cost way more to renovate the house than it would cost to tear it down and build a new one. The property value, which includes two city lots, maxes out at $36,000. I’m sure most of that is for the land itself.

My house in Olongapo is a much better house. It has three bedrooms, three full baths, a living room, a dining room, a dirty kitchen and a laundry room. Made mostly of cement, aluminum and steel, it has already withstood several earthquakes and will probably withstand many more.

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