Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Closing Day

Today was closing day on three homes:  my mom's new condo, a young family's small house, and my childhood home.  The young family that sold their house is moving in and starting a life at 10920 I Drive South as of 3:30pm, much like my family did 35 years ago.  I was 4 years old and missed my town friends like crazy.  I remember eating popsicles and watching teams of people from our church helping to fix up the 100 year old house- rebuilding the porch, building onto the kitchen, repairing the rotted stairs my brother fell through. The smell of wallpaper paste and the scent of the carpet stores are indelibly marked on my olfactory system.  I have a distinct memory of celebrating my mom's birthday (was it her 40th?) on the floor in our diningroom, before any of the furniture had arrived.  The pinkish-purplish cake dome features in that mind-picture.

Then there were the years we were all there settled in together as a family of five.  My dad often took us in the pickup truck on Saturdays (the first one was pea-green, the second was maroon) to some forest somewhere to cut down trees for firewood for our wood burning stove.  Writing this, I'm not entirely sure why, since we had our own woods flanking our house.  But again, my memories are of the vivid smells.  To this day, I love the smell of sawdust.  I remember the assembly line on cold nights:  Dad, Matthew or Mom would go out to the garage to get wood, I'd hold the door, and my sister or I would carry the wood from the door to the livingroom.  Then, we'd sweep up the trail of wood bits and warm up.  We were all involved in church and school and sports, but still spent a great deal of time at home together.  Matt, eight years older, mostly ignored me, but I loved when he let me watch a favorite movie with him on the black-and-white t.v. (What's Up, Doc?) or terrorized me by holding me upside down over the kerosene heater.  Laura and I fought like crazy, and she even gave me a black eye once.  To be honest, though, I deserved it.  And we became the best of friends later on.

Not long after we moved in, my mom met Mrs. Mullen through the March of Dimes, and her daughter, Amy, became my best childhood friend.  Her farm and family figures almost as much into my childhood memories as my own.  How many days did I play at her house, exploring the woods and fields, building hay-forts, jumping on the trampoline in the barn, playing Barbies in the tree-house?  I was terrified of the German Shepard, Baron, and whatever rooster was on duty, but I loved collecting eggs and riding horses.  Mrs. Mullen was my first piano teacher and I think of her often as I'm passing along her wisdom to my students.

My room was bright yellow, with a built-in bed and adorable hand-made shelves and drawers.  I think it was originally a giant walk-in closet.  Later, my dad expanded the room and I spent many nights star-gazing through my sky-window and dreaming of being an adult and all the adventures I'd go on.  I had a cat, Puss-n-Boots, who mothered many, many other cats, and we had an Irish Setter, Rusty.  I believe we had chickens, but Rusty put an end to that experiment quickly.  We also had a huge garden at one point.  We ate mulberries and raspberries and currants, played in the fields and woods in the summer, and went sledding and ice-skating outside at the neighbors in the winter.


Then, we all grew up and left home, one by one, as good, independent children must do.  The years between childhood and adulthood were typical teenage years, full of activity and friends and broken hearts and excitement.  Our house was always special to me, warm and comforting, even when it was cold outside.  I loved having a 'full-house' when our extended family came for holidays, and enjoyed playing junior hostess when my parents hosted parties.  Eventually, they hosted Michael's and my wedding in the backyard, on a beautiful July day, 16 years ago.  Things changed, Dad and Mom divorced, and yet the house was still there for us.  We brought Nourit, Avital and Isabelle there as babies, and I fervently hope the two older girls will remember climbing trees and trekking through the overgrown fields.  Even though Zazie is only a year, I feel like she's been blessed by being there, too, somehow.

This last year has been a roller-coaster, and although I'm feeling it acutely, I know others have felt it as much or more.  The house, which had been on the market for a few years, suddenly became a burden for my mom, whose health was compromised this year.  Getting it sold became a priority, but sifting through 40 years (or more) worth of memories was painful for her.  I think the moment I felt like the worst daughter ever was watching her breathing turn ragged and her hands shake after an intense bout of purging.  To us, they were plastic tchotckes and old, worthless vases.  To her they were reminders of so many friends and loved ones.  After starting, though, she really became ruthless and got rid of so much.  By the time she got down to the things that reminded us of our childhood lives in that lovely home, she was ready to move on.  We still weren't.  But now that the papers are signed and she's in her new space, she is relieved and happy.  I hear it in her voice and am so glad.  I'm relieved, too, that she has space for us to visit because it's always home wherever she is.  I remember staying at our old house one weekend while she was away and feeling lost without her there.  I also remember feeling like the house needed fresh air breathed into it.  Updating.  People using all the rooms and the earth outside.  I so very much wanted it to be us.  I wonder if the two little girls moving in today will love it as much as we did.  I think they will.  Maybe they'll even find the treasure that's allegedly buried in the cellar.