Today is a big day for my family. Mom and Dad close the deal to sell their home and buy a bed and breakfast. They move in to the B&B today and they have guests this weekend so their stuff will follow on Monday. This is something they’ve talked about for years and now their dream is coming true. I’m happy for them but I also find myself sad and nostalgic. Their adventure comes at the cost of my childhood home.
We moved into that house a month after my fourth birthday. My parents have lived there ever since, these past twenty-six years. They’ve spent half their lives in that home. It’s the only house I remember us having as a family. Sure, we moved around quite a bit when I was very little but I only have the vaguest memories of those places. My brother was born when I was six, that house on 190th street is the only home he’s ever known.
I think a childhood home is a magical place. That house was filled with adventure for me as a child. Monsters dwelt around every corner, dark nooks and crannies were wondrous caves in my imagination. My bedroom floor was often a vast battlefield upon which armies of Transformers and Ninja Turtles clashed in titanic struggle. In third grade my friend Ted spent the night and we stayed up late reading scary stories to each other. When we finally tried to sleep, the hovering red light of the smoke detector became an alien probe sent to kill us in our minds. Neither of us slept a wink that night. There’s a magic in that house I’ll never find anywhere else.
Even though the house has been home as long as I can remember, my memories and nostalgia are of place that hasn’t existed for years. My bedroom was in the basement. Dad split the family room in half when Mom was pregnant with my brother, turning one side into a small bedroom. I drove home from Chicago for Christmas my sophomore year to find the house completely different. New siding, new windows, a different door with a different lock. And my bedroom was gone. With just my brother at home, my parents decided the family room could be reclaimed and remodeled. The room I lived in for a decade simply ceased to be while I was away at school. It’s been ten years since they remodeled and it still seems strange to me.
I guess, in my mind, I always felt that when my family puts down roots, they put down roots hard. My father’s parents have been in the same house since 1964. My uncle has had the same house since before I was born. There’s a permanence to that. When the places you know as home never change, your idea of what a home should be gets bound up in those places.
There’s a good chance I will never see that house again. It’s very rural, far off the beaten path and hours out of my way from anywhere I might visit. I didn’t make strong friends growing up so I’m only in touch with a handful of people I grew up with and they all moved away like I did. What saddens me most about that is we buried Otto out back of my parents place last year. It’ll be a year ago this coming Tuesday, now that I think about it. She’s at rest in a beautiful place, at the base of an oak on the edge of the woods there atop the hill. It’s the perfect place for a dog. We visited the grave last Christmas, had a moment to grieve and reflect. I’m glad we did because we won’t get a second chance.
In the end, I don’t know why I’m so affected by my parents moving. Perhaps I just never expected to have to go through this bit of growing up.