Saturday, September 25, 2010

Leaving Home

The smell of new carpet has faded, and fresh paint on the walls dried. Except for a stack of framed pictures awaiting rehanging, renovations are complete.

My eighteen-year-old home feels new once again. I plan to enjoy the newness, the HGTV-dicated updates, for a few more years. And then I'll do the logical thing, the sensible one. I'll put the house on the market.

As a recent and single empty-nester, selling this two-story, twelve-room house should seem a foregone conclusion. Yet that logic is swayed by sentiment. In my mind, this remains the dream house my former husband and I designed and built--when our marriage was still intact and our children still toddlers. It's the house where I raised two boys to manhood. It's the only childhood home either of them remembers.

Memories lurk in each corner of the house, linger in every inch of the yard. How will I follow through with letting it go, on the day I finally move away?

As I glance at the front porch, I'll recall the home's early life: its rising wooden frame beckoning us all toward the future. The image of my towheaded two-year-old, his Fisher-Price tools clutched in his mittened hands, remains frozen in my memory. "I build the new house, Daddy," he announced with a proud smile, his plastic hammer rapping on a four-by-four board.

Wandering around to the back yard, I'll admire the pine tree. It was nothing more than a stick when Son #2 brought it home from his preschool Arbor Day celebration; now it nearly reaches the rooftop. The back lawn and mulched flower beds somehow survived years of Capture the Flag and pick-up football and baseball games. Our back yard also served as the setting of many teary-eyed funerals for tadpoles and hermit crabs and guinea pigs, who did not survive the years.

The wooden deck appears weathered and worn after countless barbecues and birthday parties. I smile, remembering the neighborhood concerts held here too: the exuberant voices of eight-year-olds, who fortunately still lacked the self-consciousness their teen years would bring, as they belted out the Backstreet Boys to an audience of parents and neighbors.

I'll roam through the house, wandering into the dining room, where we hosted holiday dinners for nearly two decades. I will stroke the sleek surface of the long mahogany table, which will likely not find a place in my new, smaller home. At the adjacent piano, my two young sons once played a duet for their great-grandfather, just a year before he died.

Peering down the basement, I'll recall my sons' tiny fort beneath the stairwell. Only the rough-hewn wooden door remains. The fort has sat dormant for years, eventually vacated for more grown-up occupations. But once upon a time, it held the rapt attention of several flushed-faced young boys wielding hammers and saws, building a place to call their own.

Finally, I will pass the upstairs bedroom which once held our last baby crib. If I close my eyes tightly, I'm sure I can still imagine the sweet scent of baby powder.

Is a house simply some physical structure in which portions of our life play out? Or is it more? Is it our memory-keeper, our field of dreams?

On the day I leave here for the last time, I will commit this all to memory--the images of our lives which took place in every room, every hall, every inch of the yard.

And once I know I can take all of that with me, I will tell myself I'm ready to move on.


  1. Yes our homes are part of our memory making but our head and our heart are the bigger pieces of it. You will take those two powerful pieces with you when you leave and put them in your new surroundings. You'll find room for some amazing memories to add to them after you move in! Love you, Mom

  2. some of us need photographic evidence...and if you REALLY want to relive the days of baby powder I can loan you the 3 year old who refuses to potty train.

  3. Mom: You make good points, although I have yet to forgive you for selling my own childhood home.

    Amanda: No, I'll let you keep the tyke so you can collect your own baby powder memories. In another 5-10, I'll probably be a grandmother. Yikes...

  4. I really like this post. It made me cry :)

  5. R: Glad you enjoyed--sorry about the tears! I'm sure you'll collect so many wonderful memories of your own two little boys, no matter where you live.

  6. Wonderful story as usual! I love your thoughts. The smell of baby powder tugged at my heart.

  7. Loved your story,but wherever you go I am sure you will make that a wonderful home as well and new memories with your family.

  8. Although your memories were made in your home, they live in your heart. Wherever you go, they will be. Enjoy the new memories that will join them as life has so much more to add to them.Thanks for the great blog. Jogged many memories of my own.Best wishes.