The Villa Spinnergut
was built in 1914 as a family home.
But I knew it as my high school,
A.I.S.Z. (the American International School of Zürich),
perched up on a hill in Kilchberg,
a village outside Zürich, Switzerland.
The Villa Bodmer,
was built in the 1920’s
(right across a field from the Villa Spinnergut)
for a silk factory owner.
But I knew it as the seminary
where my dad served as president—
on the grounds of which we lived in the president’s home.
In the years since I lived in Switzerland,
there’s been so much change in these two villas.
The Villa Spinnergut is no longer A.I.S.Z.,
but the middle school in the Zürich International School system,
and the Villa Bodmer is no longer a seminary,
but the property of a reinsurance company,
and the current occupants of both villas
have initiated all kinds of physical changes.
Oh, the villas themselves
are still immediately recognizable
from the outside,
but the insides and the surrounding structures
have changed significantly.
I hadn’t kept up with all the changes
(institutional or physical),
and wandered around both buildings
in the collision of memory with present experience.
But what these places are now
is not as important to me
as what they were.
And so while many rooms are different,
the space is the same,
and while some buildings are gone,
the land is the same,
and as strange and silent as both grounds were
the day I wandered around
(it being summer vacation),
both villas remain full of people long gone—
going down steps that aren’t there anymore
into rooms that aren’t what they were.
Both villas still ring with laughter—
resound with fun and music,
haunted by the hopes and dreams—
the disappointments and fears—
the rich stories
of the young teenager I was.