The saddest thing took place behind my house today.

It’s been long in coming, a plan working its way through the channels of city government and urban development meetings, winding its way through all sorts of red tape.

This morning, there was a house behind mine. A tiny, dilapidated house that certainly had “condemned” written all over it.

But a house, nonetheless. One where a woman had lived for her entire life, over eighty years.

In some strange moment of land-splitting a hundred years ago, a minute parcel between my house and the alley was named a separate lot, just barely big enough for this woman’s tiny home. By tomorrow, there will be a cleared plot, ready for a cramped two-story rental where’s there’s hardly space for a garage. It will almost certainly be rented at an exorbitant rate to some desperate students or a couple of young people trying to afford to live here, a city that pulls people in despite the salaries (low) and the house prices (high, even now) and statistics like the percentage of people living below the poverty line (around 18 percent by most recent reports).

But that’s the reality of life here and lots of places. So the tragic part wasn’t so much that this house with the tarp-patched roof is no longer standing. Given a few more years, nature might have done the job on its own.

The sad part was that the woman never married, had no children, and has been moved to a nursing home. All of her belongings were in the house as it was torn down. So with every clawful of wooden siding or floor or ceiling came books, old suitcases, boxes of laundry soap. The remnants of a life. Each charge of the back hoe sounded differently – of glass, wood, metal scraping on metal. A mounting pile of demolished belongings replaced the dwindling structure. Chunks of furniture fell from the second story, exposed like some weird Barbie dollhouse.

Tomorrow, they will truck it all away. And then they’ll start digging a hole for a foundation, clearing away all reminders of an entire life lived.

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3 responses to “Demolition”

  1. mego

    That is the saddest, most well-written thing I’ve read in a very, very long time.

  2. steph

    i agree – so lovely.

  3. Six years old (the blog, that is)

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