I needed a place to stay and my friend Carla told me her boyfriend had a house I could rent. It was the house he grew up in and though it had not been lived in for years, she said that it would be good for Henry to "clean it up and move on."
I was not sure what she meant by that but I was excited by the prospect of having a two story house to live in for under 400 dollars.
Time passed and I definitely got the sense that Henry was in no hurry to have anyone move into the house. He was always too busy or too tired to go over and do the clean up as was needed. Finally, after about two months, Carla said, 'Let's you and I just go over there so you can see the house. That will help Henry get motivated.
When the day came, Henry managed to take off work to accompany us. He said he was going to start cleaning while we looked around.
Entering the house was like entering a moment frozen in time. Nothing had changed from the last time someone had actually lived here which was, by my understanding Some 11 years before. Everything was fairly outdated from the furniture to the calender on the kitchen wall that had not been turned in that same 11 year period.
Henry spoke of his childhood and his family. Growing up in that house and all the memories that were clearly tied to each item he touched and each corner he turned. .His Mother had died first and then, several years later, his father passed. Since then, the house had remained pretty much the way it was.
His bedroom closet was filled with clothes from his college days. The wine cellar had kegs of homemade wine pressed from the fruit of the grapevines in the backyard. The yard, overgrown and rough, still had garden spots marked carefully by sticks and trellis.
The whole thing shook me a bit and left me unsure as to whether or not I even wanted to live there but Carla was insistent. "Henry needs to move on." she said. We will clean it out this weekend and you can move in.
I am certain I told this story many times back then to family and friends and, at the time, I am sure I laughed and thought it unreasonable that anyone would maintain a house like that for so many years after their parents were gone and yet, not live there or change it around at all.
Suddenly, the other day, this story resurfaced in my mind. And, as i have battled for many years to find the words to explain to my own mother why I do not wish to live in the city of my birth, let alone in the house I grew up in, it all suddenly looked very different.
The house I grew up in has changed so much. My mother, after the passing of HER parents took a course of action that was meant to simplify the care of the house. In doing so, she took away all of those things that would make my soul desire to cling, as Henry's did, to the wonderful times passed.
The trees I played in and around as a boy are gone. The giant blue spruces that I hid under and whose thick, spiny branches shaded me on hot summer days are all gone. The mass of ivy along the driveway that held bits and pieces of my childhood imaginings for me to rediscover, like an archaeologist, every year as I helped my grandfather with summer chores into adulthood, is gone. The basement room that, as I grew up in into my teens, that I lived in, created in, dreamed in is now changed completely. The kitchen, the living room, the back yard, the front porch. . . all the places I have such beautiful memories of are no longer as they were.
The things I hold onto in time deep inside of my soul, the old wooden tool chest or the armoire of my grandfather, the sewing machine or the Lowery organ of my grandmother
The lawn mower, the smell of saturday cook fests, the warmth of the house on biting winter days.
The clamor of great aunts and uncles visitng and playing cards. The trips to the mall with my mother, the sound of the old rotary phone ringing, the days spent creating worlds of my own choosing. Playing make believe games and winning make believe championships. . .
The truth is, if these things were somehow still present there, I would likely be drawn back. I would want to dwell within them for a little while longer.
But I know things change. They have to.
I realize this.
Today, I owe Henry a huge apology. All these years later, the house that I thought so odd and so unusual. The way I probably spoke of it all then. . .
No Henry, YOU had it right. To hold onto what is good and precious to you as long as you can is always to be an honored decision. Maybe it WAS time for you to "move on" but that should always be up to the person who is living with those memories and within that reality. Especially a reality that was so comprised of love.
It's one thing you can truly call your own, after all.
Image from myantarctica shop on Etsy
In Every Dream Home
Copyright 2010 nicolas hall