How an Old House on the Bayou Broke My Heart

I suppose it was inevitable the old house on the bayou would get torn down, but that didn’t make it easier to watch the demolition.

Not too long ago, I shared how many people in the neighborhood admired the old house and dreamed of being able to go in. Others shared memories of visiting late at night for after-partying after meeting a tenant at a nearby bar. The house symbolized the history of the area and served as a romantic landmark, as I wrote about just last March.

The dream would have been to buy the massive property, the last vestige of a rural landscape that dominated here from the 19th Century to even as recent as the 1990s. One would be able to drive past the shopping centers and emerge from the traffic to roll down a long driveway, past a tree line and up to the old house with its metal roof. Time might have stood still there.

Or not, maybe the light and noise pollution surrounding the land would have ruined the country vibe. You see, I now need to rationalize that it’s OK that the house was bulldozed. I drove around to find the best possible vantage point for pictures to document the end. A sheriff’s deputy was parked at the foot of the driveway, presumably to keep back onlookers.

An old house feels more protective than a newer home, probably because its enduring presence gives the sense that it can take care of itself and, by extension, its occupants. I grew up in a house built in 1909. It was over-engineered with thick exterior walls, extensive woodwork and big, heavy doors. It always stayed cool in the summer. It was designed that way, with a balcony on the second-floor landing and windows in my bedroom closet to the outside and to the back staircase opened to keep the air flowing.

Late last month, I got to go back to my childhood neighborhood and could see that the people who bought that old house are taking beautiful care of it. It made me so happy. It also made me nostalgic I don’t live in that historic, verdant neighborhood anymore. I can close my eyes and conjure up the sounds, scents and feelings of a summer night there.

Maybe that’s why I romanticized the old bayou house. It reminded me of living in a place sheltered from the modern world, resting under a canopy of trees. A quiet place. A home with old wood. A timeless space.

Watching it torn down is a harsh reminder that nothing lasts forever, except in our minds. So, what next? In this particular instance, a brand-new subdivision is being built. That raises some fears this development could exacerbate flooding problems in our area because it will be built right alongside one of the main creeks leading into a flood-control reservoir that filled beyond capacity into our adjoining neighborhoods in recent storms, including Hurricane Harvey. Here, it’s not just a loss, but an attendant fear of future problems.

More broadly, the past is something that doesn’t leave you. Sometimes, though, you need to decide whether to hold onto something, leaving it tucked away, or let it go entirely.

The Sage Leopard, thesageleopard@gmail.com