My parents still live in the house I grew up in. I never knew moving boxes or saying goodbye to beloved maple trees in the backyard or leaving a house that held my family. As a kid, I envied my friends who got to move to new houses– they got to hang their posters of Ralph Macchio on new walls and learn new shortcuts to Crestline park where under-aged drinking and going to second base were de rigueur.
I’ve had dozens of addresses over the past two decades. Crappy college apartments, a group house in Dupont Circle, and the dusty studio apartment I rented when I finally got my first real job. I’m the person who still points out her old apartments no matter how many times we drive by them and no matter that everyone in the car already knows that mommy used to live up on the third floor where that planter with begonias is now.
Today most of my family’s worldly possessions are packed up and we’re staring down a moving day, I’m preparing to say goodbye to my first real home with my family. The goodbye is happening in pieces. This afternoon we sold the chair I nursed both of my kids in. Green toile. Now it belongs to another family who is expecting their first baby in October. They get to rock through those blinding first weeks in
my their new chair.
We’ve rented this house to a group of computer programmers who seem responsible, erudite and not likely to host epic keggers. In one week a stranger will set up his personal effects in the room where my two children were conceived and he’ll put his own sweet treats in the freezer. Our names may be on the deed, but it’s not our house. Not really.
I’ve done my damnedest to declutter even though it makes my sentimental old heart seize with grief to part with any piece of myself or my children. The downside of having a killer memory is that I use it to justify holding on to every magnet (I bought that on my first business trip away from Sadie), art project (This was the first time Simon used tempera paints), and receipt (The first skirt I bought after the baby weight was gone!) I’ve ever held on to.
All the important stuff is coming with me: the kids, my new Kate Spade purse, the comfy mattress. But we are still leaving this place, this nest from which we grew from two to four. And I am struck that I don’t know how to do this; by how bizarre it feels to be up late sniffling softly because we can’t take our garage wall with us– the wall we make people sign when they come to our house. Who’s going to appreciate Jimmy Carranne’s off-color scribble about jizz like my family does?
No one. That’s who.
And that’s the point. The moments we had in this house were ours and they come with us, if only in our hearts and memories. I can only hope that our friends will come with us to the new place, write bawdy messages on the new walls and help me fall in love there. I can only hope I’ve made the space by saying goodbye here so I can say hello there.