TV Writer Lissa Kapstrom on Loving and Losing her Childhood Home.
For many of us, the house we grew up in is an important part of our history—and we believe it will always be there.
- Written byLissa Kapstrom
- Illustrated byChristine Georgiades
Occasionally I like to drive by the house I grew up in. It’s a trip back in time to the ’70s and ’80s when my family lived there. I sit in my car reliving my past, hoping the neighbors don’t think I’m casing the joint, or worse, distributing takeout menus. It’s moving to visit the house my parents built for our family of seven on a cozy cul-de-sac in a canyon. I was unaware it was down the street from the house where Sharon Tate was murdered until I was in high school, and my date thought it would be funny to drive up to the entrance gate at night and scare me. I thought it would be funny to never go out with him again.
My family home contains my childhood memories: creeping into the shag-carpeted den to watch Johnny Carson when I was supposed to be in bed; screaming at my sister to get off our new princess phone because it was my turn already; learning how to drive my mom’s orange VW bus without taking out our mailbox and my little brother on his Big Wheel. Our house was always open and welcoming. We took in strays—animal and human. Kids who weren’t allowed to eat sugar at home would swarm to our house like it was Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Even though my family moved out long ago, the house will forever belong to us. I believed the seven sets of handprints we set in cement in the yard proved that, like a brand. No matter how many inhabitants come and go and how many tacky remodels take place, (Who adds bay windows to a mid-century ranch?) the soul of the house will always be ours.
But that changed during my last visit when I discovered the house was gone. Poof! All that was there was an empty dirt lot. How could a house that was almost half a century old be gone in an instant? It was surreal. At first I thought I had made a wrong turn onto a different street. But I saw the house next door that I’d sneak my boyfriend into when I would babysit and realized the truth. Someone had made a horrible mistake. They tore down our home. Okay, we haven’t lived there in years, but didn’t they see the handprints?
Sadly, they were gone too. I guess cement isn’t as permanent as I thought.
Where will my memories live now? This was the place where I was eternally young. I don’t think I can ever come back. The probability of seeing a too-big-for-the-lot McMansion thumbing its nose at me like a plus-sized person squeezing into skinny jeans is just too painful. I’ll have to pack up my childhood and cart it to the house where I live now with my husband and son. Those memories will comingle with the ones I’m making with them. We may not have built our house, but we’ve built a home. And after we’ve moved out,
I hope my son returns from time to time to relive his past. I just pray the new owners don’t add bay windows to our mid-century ranch. That would kill me. But even if the house is gone, it won’t really matter, because memories are never homeless when they live in your heart.
Lissa Kapstrom is a TV writer (The Fairly Odd Parents, Just Shoot Me). She has no plans to tear down her son’s Sherman Oaks childhood home, where she lives with her husband.
They’re roadside attractions.
The Emergency Department of Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center