The like-titled 80s hit by the English band Madness has been going through my mind since receiving some disturbing news last Tuesday night. A former schoolmate visiting her parents emailed a message informing me my old childhood home was on fire! After my father and mother both died almost a year ago, the house had been unoccupied and was slated for demolition. Still, the fire department put out the flames and later determined it was caused by an arsonist.
I have many memories growing up at 722 5th Street South in Moorhead, Minnesota. Originally built in 1902, this two-story house was bought by my parents in 1970 after renting various places during the early years of their marriage. One exciting thing for me as a six-year-old was having my own room. My little sister and I no longer had to share one. My second-floor bedroom was connected to a sun porch where I often played with my toys. Sometimes I’d open up a glass door and put on puppet shows while neighborhood kids watched from the backyard. Other times I went down to the basement and listened to records, played foosball, pool or ping-pong.
Of course, a bigger house meant more chores needed to be done. Among my assigned duties were vacuuming, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, and picking up poop in the dog pen (which I hated the most). I also made coffee for my parents but wouldn’t drink the stuff myself until years later.
Our family’s move to the corner of 5th Street and 8th Avenue initially caused a rift with the Moorhead school system. Our previous home was closer to Riverside Elementary. The new house was still close enough for me to walk to Riverside for first grade. Officials repeatedly told my parents I had to go to Park School because of a zoning ordinance. I ended up going to Park from second to fifth grade. Then I returned to Riverside for sixth grade. Declining enrollment resulted in Park closing down (though it was later resurrected as a private Christian school).
Our house was also close to Concordia College. As a boy, I often rode my bicycle around the campus. Following my high school graduation, I enrolled at Moorhead State University because their tuition was less expensive. Fortunately, that was also within walking distance.
Meanwhile, my parents decided to build a spacious addition in place of the original garage. Construction of that began in the mid-1970s but wasn’t completed until a decade later. While the addition was in a half-finished state, I made use of the vacant space by having rummage sales. Dad contributed items such as used furniture and paid me a commission. When the addition was finally done, a large family room was used for celebrations, meals, and watching TV.
In 1985, I enlisted in the Army National Guard and then moved to Minneapolis. For a while, I’d come home about four times a year. My visits became less frequent after becoming a Christian in 1991. Mom and Dad were initially uncomfortable with my newfound faith. God later provided alternative places for me to stay in the Fargo-Moorhead area. It’s just as well since I didn’t like being around my mother’s smoking.
After Mom had a stroke and moved to an assisted living facility, Dad was okay with me staying at the house again for short visits. By this time, the bedrooms upstairs were mostly used for storage. So I slept on a couch in the family room. I didn’t mind that except when the dogs woke me up with their barking.
For years, I speculated of someday inheriting the house even though I didn’t want to settle in Moorhead again. That was never an option. Due to financial issues, Dad sold the house to Concordia College but continued renting it from them. The college had already torn down neighboring houses to provide extra parking space for students. There was recurring talk of our house coming down as well but wouldn’t happen during my parents’ lifetime.
While it would still be nice having my own house someday, I have a more glorious home waiting in heaven. Jesus promised me a mansion in John 14:2. The house fire is a reminder never to be consumed with temporal things that won’t last forever.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” - 2 Peter 3:10