What’s More Important: the Actual Place or the Memory?

I couldn’t decide what to talk about this month. It’s been a very reflective few weeks for me.

One of the things on my mind is that the church I was raised in is slated to be torn down. Normally, I would say that a building is just a building, but this one is an iconic spire in the city landscape and a spectacular piece of architecture. If you compare the church to the power poles in the picture below, you can see how tall it is. IMG_0028Holy Rosary Church was built in 1920 and would celebrate its centennial next year, but it’s been unusable for over a year and I find that so sad.

I have a lot of memories from my time spent in this church. Most notably, I, and all eight grades of the school next door, were inside the church in 1965 when a 6.5 magnitude earthquake hit. I remember two things vividly from that day. I remember the priest holding his arms up to keep a very tall, very ornate altar from falling. Mind you, that altar had to be twenty feet high! (I didn’t feel comfortable posting pictures from sources I didn’t have permission from, but if you google Holy Rosary Tacoma you should be able to find a picture of that altar. It’s beautiful!)

Anyhow, the shaking was so hard, I, as well as most of us kids, freaked out. Panicked. We ran for the doors. A man (I’ve never known who) barred the door with his casted leg to keep us from running outside. Good thing, too, because the church steeple fell during that earthquake, shattering and raining glass and wood and metal and brick all over the place. We would have been outside when it fell. (That steeple was rebuilt and replaced in 1966.)

They say it would take $18 million dollars to repair it. Well, $10 million to make it inhabitable again and another $8 million to make it shine. I’ve got very mixed emotions, because $18 million would feed a lot of hungry people and shelter many who need homes, and I have a hard time supporting that amount of fund-raising for a building.

I’m sad the church will be torn down, even though I don’t live close to it anymore. In a recent chat with Lavada Dee from this blog, we got to talking about moving, selling homes we’ve lived in for a long time, and how the memories stay with us even when we move on. That’s how I feel. The house my husband and I live in is too big for us, yet we have completely different views about leaving it. I’d move to a smaller place, taking our memories with us, whereas he prefers to stay here and have this physical tie to our past.

So why am I ready to move out of the home I’ve lived in for thirty years, but I’m having trouble with the church from my youth being torn down? I’ll still have my memories, so just like my home, I should be able to let it go. I’m usually forward-thinking, not a past-minder, and I just can’t figure out why this is making me sad. Maybe it’s simply that it’s a tangible tie to my mother who passed away in 2016. I don’t know.

I can’t let it last, though. September is a busy month with fun things on my schedule, deadlines to meet, and stories to finish and get ready for publication. So I’ll have to count August as my month of looking back, which means September then becomes my “big girl panties” month. Time to relegate reflection to the recesses of my heart and get back to work.

I hope the rest of your summer is warm and relaxing, and your entry into the fall is gentle and full of color.

For more information about Laurie Ryan:
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6 responses to “What’s More Important: the Actual Place or the Memory?

  1. Ah Laurie, nothing stays the same for ever. With the church there’s so much history tied up with it. I know many felt horrible when Notre Damne caught fire. A lot of donations flooded in almost immediately. New buildings don’t hold the same sentiment as these old icons.

    We’ll be saying goodbye to summer in a few weeks, a good time to concentrate on all that’s ahead.

  2. It’s a lovely church and what a story about that earthquake. That casted man was an angel in disguise for sure. I think, like you, that the money would go a long way to feed people, but it’s still hard to lose a lovely building like that one.
    Memories are always there and I know you have a lot of great ones of the church and your home. Whatever you decide, those will be there wherever you call home. I am always telling clients that a house is a building, a home is what you make of the building you’re in-no matter where it is.
    Best wishes on the book being ready to go! Big girl panty September is a good motto. I’ll grab mine, too. Jillian

  3. It’s even more amazing inside, but I don’t have an opportunity to take my own pictures. (And the ones I found online were tied to some religious attitudes I didn’t agree with.) Yep, time to let it go, though my siblings and I have been having on and off texting discussions about it. Maybe that’s why I keep thinking about it! 🙂

  4. Your earthquake experience sounds mighty scary! It is sad when buildings we hold in hearts get pulled down but they can never rip down those memories. They stay forever even after the building’s long gone. Changing homes is hard but they soon become comfortable refuges as you settle in and make new memories.

    • I completely agree with you that we take the memories with us. And I’ve let the church go, though there’s still a huge drive to repair it. I…it’s just hard for me to to think of spending $18 million USD for a building.

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