Guest Commentary

February 11, 2002

Letting go is hard to do

Josh Renaud
Guest commentator

I stood on the sidewalk across the street and watched as they tore it down. A large yellow material handler scooped up rubble in its grapple and deposited it into a metal container on a waiting truck.

It was the Old Current House, at 7940 Natural Bridge Road. I've had a love affair going with that place since I started working there 3 years ago. And my heart convulsed as I watched them demolish it.

Broken floor joists and splintered wall studs poked through piles of brick and rubble, like shattered bone through exposed flesh.

That painful scene reminded me of a similar experience I'd had the Tuesday before. My car had broken down on the highway, which was bad enough. When I came back with a tow truck two hours later, I found my stereo and entire CD collection stolen. The center console had been ripped out. Wires and vacuum lines dangled from the hole in the dash like a baby tooth hanging by one last gummy string.

As the demolition machine continued its work, I was flooded with memories. Spending quiet afternoons in our upstairs writer's lab — the most peaceful, isolated spot on campus — enjoying the great view of North Campus through the window. Having conversations on the back porch for privacy, since the walls throughout the house were paper-thin. The staged "throw-downs" between testosterone-drenched male staffers. Our five small but mighty window-mounted air conditioners' battling against the awful summer heat. My first day as editor-in-chief, decorating my own private office. Late-night RISK games in the newsroom. The "beach party" we had on the front lawn during the Old House's last year as our office. Our work day the next spring, cleaning the Old House out — the final time I set foot inside of it.

That place meant a lot to me. So did my music. I sing all the time — often too loud, and usually not very well. I lost my complete collection of Petra CDs, over 25 of them. It took me years to assemble those albums.

And it only took an instant to lose those precious things.

But they were just things. Things! I was too wrapped up in it all. I've been sucked into our culture of materialism like everyone else. I'm clingy. I hold onto stuff for sentimental value.

I'm always rationalizing why to keep things around. The Old House, for instance, is a colorful piece of UMSL history. No other building on campus can compete with it. The tales are almost legendary now: the arsonist who set the Old House on fire, the time someone was thrown through a wall upstairs, the bawdy "news desk incident." This campus is disgustingly short of history and continuity. The Old House was one of the few places that contributed some.

But this demolition will pave the way for something new, for "progress." Administration officials say for now the properties they own along Natural Bridge will be converted to green space. But there are many potential future uses. An Alumni Relations annex or a new connection between North and South Campus are a few ideas being considered.

So, I'm trying to let go. With the house gone and my music missing, I feel strangely free. Will it last? I hope so.

But the pile of memento bricks I stowed away in my car is trying to convince me otherwise.

Josh Renaud
The Current 2000-2001

This article was reprinted with permission from The Current.

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