Stephen and I were strolling along on Thayer Street in Providence on our way to meet my granddaughter who is a freshman at Brown. My daughter and her fiancé were with us, and Stephen was pointing out various landmarks from his years living in that city. We were almost to the place we were to meet my granddaughter. Stephen turned to point out a building of special significance to him, stopped still and gasped.
“It’s gone!” he exclaimed. He stood looking across the street to where the house turned shop that he had known from his childhood had been. In its place was the gaping infrastructure of a soon to be Brown University dormitory. Stephen had grown up in Providence, and his family had once owned the now totally vanished building for all of his young years. In his childhood it had housed a shop that his mother and father had managed and in which he had spent many hours as a boy.
“It was such a lovely little house,” he said. There was another house on either side. My mother ran the Scotch Shop in it, and I think she was happy there. My grandmother used to say that one day the building would be mine, but they sold it after I got married. I suppose they thought I wouldn’t be interested. Why did they have to tear it down?”
He turned to me and the expression on his face was sad. I felt for him. When something special you have known from your childhood is gone it is as though you have lost an old friend. The experience brings to mind other losses as well. I know I was reminded of other vanished childhood places as well even as people who have disappeared from my life. As a wise person who had been one of my teachers was fond of saying, “The only constant is change.”
It seems important to be able to take this kind of experience in stride. While it is appropriate to mourn a passing of significance, it is also vital to move on from it and to accept the inevitability of change. Growth cannot take place without it. Brown University had outgrown its current ability to house students and needed to expand. To make way for that, buildings or houses of lesser importance to them had to be razed. In life, what we have left behind must be removed to make room for what is to come.
As a mystic, I see a potential for symbolic meaning in this experience. Perhaps something from Stephen’s past has been eliminated to make room for something new that is being built for him. I am always curious to see what develops when a major change has taken place. Our lives are subject to the currents of energy that take us where we need to go for our next adventure. Meanwhile, as another wise person has said, there is always the laundry and the grocery shopping.