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Friday, January 13, 2012

Goodbye, House

Today my life changes. It’s a well-worn cliché, but nothing will ever be the same again. Today my parents move out of my childhood home. The home I grew up in. The home they’ve lived in for 25 years.

If you would’ve asked me a year ago whether my parents, especially my dad, would ever consider leaving that house, I would’ve laughed at the mere idea of it. My dad has lived in Michigan for at least 50 years of his life. He loves nature, and hockey, and changing seasons. My mom has also lived in Michigan for at least 50 years. She loves the familiar, the Tigers, and the Red Wings (!!!!). But last spring my dad told us he was interviewing for two different jobs on the West Coast. After so many years teaching the same classes at the same university, he was spent. He decided it was time for a change. I’m not sure any of us really took this idea seriously. I mean, this is the man who was once going to contact the township to see if he could actually be buried in the backyard. But, the interviews came and went, and the excitement of a new teaching opportunity overpowered my father’s love of Michigan, our house, and the familiar. And that’s saying a lot.


As we’ve all anticipated this day, I’m sure he has second guessed this decision several times. I know he’ll miss fall, and visiting the U.P., and playing hockey five days a week. But I know, more than anything – he’s going to miss our house. My dad has spent the past quarter of a century working on this house and making it into our own family haven. He built a two-story garage, a tree house and a playhouse for my sister and me to play in when we were little, a sauna to remind him of his childhood days in the U.P., a library with a fireplace that he built himself, each stone with a story and taken from some place special (Just to name a few of his many projects). He has buried many a family pet on top of the hill behind the house. And he recently mentioned that one of the things he’ll miss the most is playing with Maddy in the yard.


To a lot of people moving away from a house is no big deal. Mikael, for one, has never really had a place he considered home. At least not home in the sense of what I have in this house. So, for him as well, this house is home. So many memories took place there that it’s hard to imagine what it will be like to not have that place to return to. It’s been one of the constants in my life as waves of changes have come over the years.


I know that letting go of this house doesn’t necessarily mean letting go of my memories, but it changes them somehow, makes them just a bit fuzzier when I think about them. I remember as an eight-year-old, sitting on the couch, listening to my grandma on the phone with my dad as he told her my baby brother had died. I remember watching my sister traipse around the yard with a kitten tucked under her arm. Or watching her get a new bike for her sixth birthday and subsequently throwing a fit because it was too big for her liking, a memory that has become one of our family favorites. I remember playing in the yard with my childhood friends every afternoon, imagining we were the Dukes of Hazzard or making “houses” out of raked leaves. I remember hiding myself in the linen closet with a book and a flashlight for the pure delight of having no one know where I was. I remember sledding down our hill with Joni, Lucy, and my mom, laughing until we were all in tears. I remember boyfriends and breakups, first kisses in the driveway, fights with my dad about curfews. I remember my mom rubbing my back as I cried over broken hearts and broken friendships. I remember sleeping on a mattress on the floor in the kitchen with Maddy when she was a puppy and waking up every hour to take her out, resulting in a quickly potty trained pup. I remember laying on the couch in the library with Mikael and kissing him first ‘cause I just couldn’t help myself. I remember crying in the driveway after Mikael and I broke up and he drove out of town, and then I remember meeting him several months later in that same spot as we started to reconsider that decision. I remember coming home from California to live with my parents at 29 years old, defeated from giving it a go in the real world, but grateful to have home and family ready to welcome me back and help me lick my wounds. I remember

coming home from Muncie or Ypsilanti with Maddy on the weekends, and as soon as I opened the front door, she would run as fast as she could to find my mom and dad, squealing with excitement to be home. I remember coming home from a trip to the beach one April afternoon with a sparkly ring on my finger. I remember sitting on the back porch with various family members, talking as we watched Maddy explore the yard and fetch her toy. I remember reading my vows to my sister in the attic the night before my wedding, both of us crying at the vows and the knowledge that our lives were about to change forever.


I always thought this would be the house I would bring my kids to someday. That I would show them the place where I busted a taillight trying to back out of the driveway or where home base used to be for our softball games or where my many pet hamsters are buried. That Christmas would mean going to grandpa and grandma’s on snowy Snow Road. That somehow they would understand who I am because who I am has been shaped by this place. But, I guess that’s the lesson in all of this. I mean, isn’t there always a lesson in something that makes you cry by yourself on the bathroom floor? The sense of belonging and place that I have because of this house has helped me become who I am. Knowing that I had home to return to – always- helped me be brave, take risks, made me stronger. And, I guess that’s what I’ll have to try to do for my own family. Someday I’ll give them all a place that is comfortable, familiar, warm, and full of memories. Someday.


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