My sister texted me a photograph this week that has brought up a host of emotions for me.
It was a photograph of the for sale sign that has been placed in front of our family home. I haven’t lived there in many years, but for my entire adulthood it has been the place to which I return.
For 50 years, our family has called the white house with the black doors home. And soon it won’t be.
When my parents bought the house, it was the place they were going to raise their three young children. I remember the day we moved in; while my parents unpacked, I wandered up the street and met another little girl my age. Susie introduced herself, chatting away as she picked dandelions from neighbours’ lawns. I remember asking her if she was allowed to pick other people’s “flowers.”
The dead-end street had a forested area at the top and kids in almost every house. We rode our bikes and scooters at the open area at the top of the street and played for hours in those woods — coming home only when we were called for lunch or dinner, or because it was getting dark.
Our house had been built in the ‘40s by a builder who created interesting nooks and crannies and innovations such as built-in drawers and storage areas under the eaves, with tiny little doors, and where we used to create forts and hiding places. In the den, there was what we still refer to as the record closet: shelves built specifically to store records, and a built-in turntable where records could be stacked. As well, he had installed speakers all over the house: the dining room, the living room and the rec room in the basement.
The house was renovated in the ‘80s, but it just made it better while still maintaining many of the original features.
It was the place where I had a very happy childhood, and was blessed with a close, loving family.
It’s the place my brother was married and where my husband and I were married many years later, in the front garden in front of a Japanese maple strung with fairy lights.
It’s where my niece and nephew — now both adults — took some of their first steps.
It’s where my daughter happily played under the kitchen table.
And in the seven years since my mom passed away, it’s been the place that I return to and feel comfort. I feel her presence in every room. It is where my grief over losing her is somehow lessened because she is there. Every picture on the wall, the cookbooks in the kitchen — many with her chicken scratch scrawl on certain recipes, declaring them “wonderful” or “yechh.”
And now the for sale sign is in front of the house and it will be sold. But my siblings and I are so grateful that our dad is the one making the decision to move. So many seniors have the decision made for them. Our dad is still working full-time at the age of 81 and has finally made the decision to not only sell the house but to retire.
We are hoping he has many years in which to enjoy not making that morning commute he has done every weekday since 1961.
I’m returning home next month to help pack up 50 years worth of stuff, and to bring back what won’t be needed in the new place. This may be my last time home because most old houses in the neighbourhood are bought for the land and torn down, ready for a brand-new house.
It’s going to be emotional — saying goodbye to the house is also saying goodbye to another part of my childhood. But at the end of the day, it’s just bricks and mortar (or in this case, plaster and lathe). There is a line from a poem by Emily Dickinson that says, “Where thou art, that is home.”
It is a comforting reminder that for me, home is wherever my family is.