Back at home, there used to be this house right off of where the highway kissed the interstate. It was small — maybe 1,000 square feet total — and architecturally simple, almost like a cartoon. It had this lovely stone exterior, the kind that the newer Virginia estates try to clone for hundreds of thousands of dollars extra, sometimes beautifully, but usually awkwardly. The house sat contently in the least-residential-friendly area with an un-shingled roof and an A.C. unit dangling out the front window like a bored teenager. A wire fence hugged the house, punctuated by haphazardly sized wooden posts. The house is interesting, I guess, in the way that if you describe any building idyllically it becomes interesting. Let’s be clear here: it was a rather unremarkable house.
Except almost everyone in town knows that house. If you live in my zip code, you know the house. If you’ve driven through my zip code, you probably know the house, because it used to be absurdly ornamented. The entire property was peppered with antiques and lawn decorations that were different every time you drove by, yet always maintained a constant visage of busyness. The house glistened as you drove by, a result of the sun beating down on several swirling silver windmills and brass chimes. There were a gaggle of ceramic baby cows circling a decorative wooden well, enough birdbaths for every bird in the mid-Atlantic and banners welcoming spring, welcoming fall, welcoming the holidays, welcoming goodness knows what.
Our town, which used to be a just a handful of farms and was once entirely burned down by Union troops, has been suburbanizing since the turn of the millennium. In 1995, the population was around 500. Today, it’s quadruple that, with every patch of grass being sold as a lot for a new cookie-cutter house. The cookie cutter is such a fitting analogy for those semi-suburban developments; they are all, in essence, the same house, decorated ever-so-slightly differently. Different developers give you different cutters, depending on your taste. My best friend from middle school and I effectively live in the same house, only hers is on the other side of the street. It makes it easy to find the bathroom and hard to feel special about the place where you live.
The house on the highway had always been here longer than I had. Probably longer than I had been on Earth. It’s seen a hospital erected just across the street and a controversial Walmart built just down the freeway. The house has seen the roads expand so much that it could nibble on the highway asphalt. It’s old. Old, absurd and memorable.
Several years ago, there was buzz of expanding the interstate and fixing the janky ramp that had been cause for countless accidents. The connection never quite hit me, but afterwards the house began to strip itself of its ornaments. As I grew older, it grew increasingly naked. Last week, I finally noticed it was gone. Torn down to make room for the ramp.
Pegah Moradi is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected] All Jokes Aside appears alternate Mondays this semester.