When I was 17 (March 1997), my mom and I drove out to visit Whitman College. I had been accepted the previous November and had accepted my acceptance sight unseen. Thankfully, I fell in love with Whitman and Walla Walla (the mini-city in which Whitman exists). I remember driving around in my mom’s minivan, feeling thrilled that I would get to spend four years of my life in such a classic American small town. We drove down one street, lined with beautiful old houses which were becoming decrepit. I was filled with anguish that these houses (which in my mind were works of art) could be left to crumble. When I expressed this pain to my mom, she told me something that has stayed with me for years, that I often repeat to myself. She said, “everything has a lifespan.”
That little bit of wisdom came back to me last night, as I was driving through the neighborhood that, up until three weeks ago, I worked in. At least once a week after work for two years, I would drive along Queen Lane, from Wissahickon to Germantown Ave., to go to my favorite thriftstore. Queen Lane only runs one way, so to head back into East Falls, I would take Coulter St., past Germantown Friends, to get back to Henry Ave. and then Kelly Drive. I happened to be in the area last evening, and took this path to and from Bargain Thrift. Nothing appeared to have changed along Queen Lane, but as I drove up Coulter, there was a glaring void.
There had been a ramshackle old garage on Coulter, near Greene St. It was brick exterior building. The ceiling had crashed in, and it looked like it had been that way for years. There was an old, rusty Buick, half crushed under a roof support beam. It had been there for as long as I had known the neighborhood, and I assumed that it would continue to stand in that location. Every time I drove by, I would glance into the gaping mouth of that garage. I would watch the way the weather influenced the way the light passed through the ruined roof and into the disarray. The snow looked particularly amazing covering the old car, bricks and beams. I always meant to stop and take a picture, and I never did. I expected it to last forever, a modern ruin in a undeveloped neighborhood.
But now, it’s gone, it’s lifespan completed. I recognize it, I understand it and yet I still mourn it.