Mark Hamilton is 21 now. His father always says this decade were Flint’s most tumultuous years. He has a point. The unprecedented acceleration in house prices gave his family easy access to a loan, and a first home despite being within the lower-income bracket.
Then it all fell apart.
The foreclosure of homes and Flint’s shrinking population has had banks leading the demolition of over 2000 homes, all of which lie desecrated and abandoned in aging neighbourhoods. A record 750 homes were demolished last year, including the small 1890s Tudor-style property that was once Mark’s home. He reminds us many more will be torn down, but not just bricks and mortar will come apart.
“As a family we have moved on. They say memories are inherited, passed on as we remember our fathers and our mothers. Here they crumble with the walls…The balustrade I could hardly reach while growing up, that then creaked under my weight, will no longer remind me of my father’s repairs.
It will never again evoke him and his gentile nature, when I sat on his lap on the landing where the stairs end. And another year will pass, and another room that my memory will fail to recall in the house that no longer stands.”
One day it will become just a perfectly inane shell, a fleeting notion of what was once a home. But the iconic shape endures, poised on a pedestal in the mind’s eye, above a landscape of anew, another generation’s future, and this city’s brave new hope.
Mark Hamilton will find success, grow old and make a family home of his own. And one bright morning, with the sun on his back as he climbs the front steps of his brand new porch, he will see his son sitting by the stairs. And upon entering, waving aside the glistening screen door as if parting a sheath of water, he will look upon his son, and remember his father, in their small Tudor home, in the beautiful city of Flint.
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Mark’s story reminds us that homes have been lost and that these homes belonged to families. But also that we have the power to renew our city and its memories. The family values that are passed on through generations are what make a home. They are never trully lost.
As the city contracts, we find comfort in what the future beholds, and that which will soon flourish. Our common values are reflected in our appreciation of what makes an American home, and a family, a prized posession.
Mark’s house is a reflection of us all, of our beliefs. We find that there is much joy within, but also there is shelter in the city that shares these family values -it’s mirror walls a constant reminder that it is all of us, that make it a home.
Mark’s house celebrates this sentiment, as it mirrors and reflects back the trees, the streets, the sill windows, and the midwestern sky, and most importantly, the people of Flint.