20 years after leaving, home is no longer there

Published 7:53 am Thursday, August 2, 2018

Home can be a vague concept. It might be your hometown, where you currently live, or the house you grew up in. It’s where you hang your hat, and also where you can never go back to.

I’ve lived in six houses in my life — three as a kid and three as an adult.

Last week, one of them collapsed. It was almost 100 years old, and a century of rain and leaks undermined the foundation until it suddenly gave out. Pictures of the rubble dominated the local news the next day, and it was surreal to see landmarks like the back porch that somehow survived intact and part of my old third-floor bedroom sitting on the sidewalk.

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I hadn’t lived there in 20 years, but of the three houses we lived in before my 18th birthday that one felt most like home. We left the first house when I was 9, and our family had a rough time in the second. Some lingering issues bubbled to the surface and we splintered.

When we moved into this house in December 1992, everything just … got better. It’s hard to explain, but moving there seemed like a fresh start for us all even though it was only four blocks away. We still had some problems, but the family drama settled down. My bedroom was a converted attic and the size of a small studio apartment, which gave a teenager the privacy they crave.

I was 16 when we moved in and 21 when I moved out for good. I passed so many of life’s milestones that it’s the house I truly grew up in.

I can still remember sitting in that bedroom, now nothing more than rubble, 20 years ago and being awakened by a phone call. It was from a newspaper editor about a job. I drove to Georgia on July 4 weekend for the interview.
While there I got another call from then-sports editor Mark Thornton at The Vicksburg Post. He wanted to interview me, too. That took place over the phone, mostly back in that bedroom in New Jersey, and a few weeks later I left for Mississippi.

I never set foot in that house again.
My parents moved out a year later, before I had a chance to come back and visit. My dad died in 2000 and mom moved again. My childhood home was gone, even though I made a point to drive past it when I did return in later years.

And now it’s gone for good. They say you can never go home again, but it’s a really strange feeling when that’s the literal truth.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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