Memories are powerful. It’s memories that make someone long dead, immortal. It’s memories that make us laugh at our mistakes. And it’s memories that make a house, a home.
In September of 2006, I woke up to a screaming fire alarm. I rushed down the hall, joining the rest of my family in the stampede to get outside. Luckily, everyone made it out safely. But we watched our home of over 10 years burn to the ground. It was hard not to cry.
After the chaos subsided, my family went to the hotel we would call ‘home’ for the next few months. Even though there were six of us, we stayed in one room with just two beds. It was cramped, but we all wanted to be together. In the hours before, paramedics and police officers had surrounded us. Now, alone in the small hotel room, our rambunctious family was silent. The craziness of the day was over, and we had nothing to do but reflect.
I thought of our old house and all the amazing times we had in it as a family. I thought of my sister’s pink room and how our cousins would always play in it with her. I thought of our kitchen table and the famous Thanksgiving dinners we had hosted at it. I thought of all the places in the house I used to love and realized they were all gone.
I looked around at the small hotel room and realized my whole family was paralyzed by memories of what we had lost.
Then, my youngest brother broke the silence. He looked around the room and laughed. He was only six at the time. He looked at us and said, “Do you guys remember watching the school bus pull up through the front window? That was my favorite thing about the house.” His one simple memory started a chain reaction.
My older brother spoke up next, recalling his favorite memory in the house. Then, my dad did the same. Before I knew it, the room was filled with my family’s laughter and all of the good memories we had in our house. The memories weren’t haunting us; they were a reminder of how strong our family was.
After the longest laughing fit, I remembered the time my brother lost a snake somewhere in the house. I piped up saying, “Can we get a pet snake in the new house?” When we finally got that new house and new pet, it was a promise of more memories to come. My brother’s comment forced us to remember all of the good times we had in our old house, and reminded us not to dwell on what we lost. Now, when I think back to the red-bricked, green-shuttered house I grew up in it, I think of all the memories we made, not the fire that destroyed it. I believe in memories.
Samantha Calbrese is a freshman at Penn State University Park.