It's my house, no matter who owns it

When I moved away from my childhood home, I loved the idea of starting fresh, not leaving behind any trace that I'd been there. That changed, though, several years later when I went back to see an old friend who still lived on the street.

"You should see what they've done to your place," she said.

So later that day I knocked on the familiar white back door and asked if I could take a look around.

I expected a few subtle changes, since the new owners had already changed the exterior paint. But I was shocked to see that there was nothing familiar inside.

The wallpaper that had hung in every room had been stripped, replaced by bright shades of paint. And the basement that had once been my private roller-skating rink - my "think tank" as I went round and round - was now two finished rooms with thick, fuzzy carpet.

Even the bedroom I shared with my little sister had changed. It was now the master suite, and I'm sure that Mr. and Mrs. didn't settle their squabbles the way Linda and I did.

Whenever I was annoyed, I'd say, "OK, we're going to divide up the room." Then I'd form a boundary line with my shoes and slippers. "You get that half," I'd say firmly, giving her 20 percent of the "land." For some reason, she never argued.

It was disconcerting to find no trace of myself in "my" house, as if a line had been drawn between my time and theirs. I thought about scribbling "Elizabeth lived here" on a wall when no one was looking.

But I didn't. The history of a house gets revised many times, but the home I knew, and still carry with me, supersedes what I saw that day. It's like a delicious secret, especially since I'm the only one who knows where all the bumps in that roller rink were.

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