To anyone else, it’s probably an aging house in an early-80s subdivision of similar houses. This one has a few more trees, but the garden has seen better times, and the shingles probably need to be replaced. There’s a large fenced backyard encircled by trees ten-free plus, and a small playhouse that’s been converted to a greenhouse. To anyone else, this is just a house, that can easily be given a dollar-value, probably “needs” renovation, and is little more than a well-organized stack of lumber, siding, and shingles.
But to me, this is, and always will be my family home. Out-front, the peony blooms on my birthday, and has since that first year, when my dad cut a bouquet to take to my mom in the hospital the day I was born. The backyard and the playhouse was sometimes an ocean of green as we played “mermaid,” an enchanted castle in a magical forest, or almost impassable with snow in the depth of January.
My brother and his girlfriend recently purchased a first home of their own, which means the time has finally arrived: our family home will be sold. I moved out some years before, my parents just over two years ago, and my brother by June 1 of this year – which is when the house is set to be put on the market. And I’m completely devastated. While I’m supposed to be supportive of my parents’ and their stresses over required renovations, celebrating for my brother and his excitement over a new place, and the sounding board for my husband who’s acting as contractor for pre-sale improvements, all I want to do is grieve.
How can a place become a part of us? How can this building, this collection of wood, nails, and carpet be a member of our family? The selling of this building doesn’t diminish the memories that were made there, nor the strength of the family who grew there. It is just a building. And yet, it is because of all that went there, all we became there, all the experiences our house witnessed for us, remembers for us in the worn carpet and the occasional dent on the wall, it is because of this that the impending loss of this place becomes a mini-apocalypse.
Selling the house is inevitable: none of us live there any longer, and keeping it for renters / posterity / whatever else is foolhardy. I know this. I feel somewhat ridiculous at how much this whole thing is bothering me – I have my own home now, one that my husband and I built, our dream home. And yet, I am reminded how I’ve read before that in some stories, especially some particularly great stories, that the scenery and the setting can become a character unto itself. And I think this is the case with our house. It is a character in our history, and even when someone new moves there, our ghosts, the part of us – our love, our memories, our experiences – part of us will remain behind there. Because a part of us will always remain in that place, in that wood, concrete, and carpet.
This is the only family home we ever knew: I lived there for twenty-two years before I moved out. My parents built it by hand. Staying in one place for so long is probably unusual for many people, but our roots ran deep in this house, this place. All I can do is hope that someone else will be welcomed by the love of this family home and that new memories, new roots will grow.
Until then, this change is just one more tiny apocalypse – an end signaling a new beginning, even if it isn’t the end. So, farewell to our house, and onward to the rest of our lives.
Have you ever experienced something like this – a profound attachment to place? Do comment below.
Thanks for reading, and have a great week.