My parents recently sold the house I grew up in. Not just me, but all 6 of us were raised in the same house. We all spread our wings and left the small town. Always to come back and visit, to regroup, to find our center, to come back home.
Now that house belongs to someone else. Another person’s kids will slip candy into the bedroom through the slit in the screen. Someone else’s daughter will steal her brother’s hot wheels and bury them in the dirt under the swing. Some other dad will buy his daughters too-short skirt from her and use it as pipe insulation.
A different family will sit around the kitchen table and talk and laugh for hours. They might even throw dinner rolls across the table that accidentally land in a glass of milk. Another little girl will play poor people at the bottom of the stairs with her bestie and taste the honeysuckles that grow over the neighbor’s fence. Another girl’s dad will make waffles on Saturday morning for her and her little sleepover friends.
Someone else will watch the big cottonwood trees fall over when the wind blows. And be frustrated with the chimney that doesn’t draw right. And deal with the birds that fall into said chimney and end up fluttering frantically producing a sound very similar to nails on a chalkboard. Another little girl will build mud pies and another teenage boy will dig holes the size of swimming pools. Someone else’s mom will step on an inch-long sticker from the blasted sticker tree.
Part of me wants to give the new family a tour of the house. Y’know, show them how to treat it properly. Like using the garage door instead of the sliding glass door. And that they can’t take down the paneling in the front room because it’s real wood. And when the water gathers into puddles on the patio it gets slippery. My butt remembers the pain.
I want to tell them it’s little secrets. Like the tongue-sticking-out-face on the plywood from the strike in the 70’s that was used to build the garage roof. And if you look at the base of the first pillar of the patio you’ll see the year it was finished. And somewhere under the stairs to the master bedroom is a jar of things important to small children.
The fact that it’s no longer my house makes me sad. There are plenty of special people to visit in that small town, I can always go back. But I won’t be going back to my house. To sleep in my room. In my bed. Because it isn’t mine anymore.
No more running to the end of the street to wave at the departing visitors passing on the freeway.
This becomes less about the house itself, and more about the memories of the home. It was someone else’s house before it was ours, and now it moves on for another family to make it a home. And while I’d like to go back home one more time to smell the first time the swamp cooler turns on and see the sunset after the August thunderstorms and feel the pine needles poke my toes and eat one more meal around the table, the house is just a house. It became our home because we were there, and home is wherever we are. Because a house is just a house.
Goodbye house. We’ll miss you.