We've been feeling down, Paterfamilias and I. We are selling our house of 40-odd years and lamenting the losses--of so much space to live in, of a house we love, of a viewscape of cardinals feasting at the bird feeder and squirrels romping on tree limbs.
Our grown kids reassure us. We're going to love our 2-bedroom apartment and the new life style of walking to stores, restaurants, coffee shops, the Metro, the library. It's only natural to feel down, they tell us. You're only experiencing the losses right now. You haven't gotten to the gains yet.
To boost our morale--and to say goodbye to the house they grew up in--they've both taken a day off and flown home for a just-the-four-of-us day of togetherness. We are having lunch at the kitchen table (just like old times) and they start talking about all the things that took place in our family at that table. Not just the meals--the table was the center of family life. We read the newspaper here, they did their science projects; we had heart-to-heart chats with them, they teased each other. Innumerable punchlines were thrown at this central point.
"You taught me how to write at this table," my son tells me. "I was in fifth grade and writing a book report. My first line was 'This book was interesting.' You told me that wasn't saying anything. You made me come up with a list of words that described the book. I tell my kids that story all the time."
My daughter talks about all the hidden and hiding places in our house. The closet that goes from one room into another. The bathroom that leads into another bathroom. She loved to read books under a comforter on the top bunk bed in her room--and then jump off. That's why we used to call her Thumper.
A house holds so many memories--their whole childhood and our years of parenting them. So does the neighborhood. We live on a dead off a dead-end street with woods at the end. They tell us how they used to play near the creek that runs through the woods, even though there were times when it had a less-than-pleasant smell. "We were so lucky to grow up here," both our children tell us. But they are also very clear. It's time for us to move on. Time to let another family live in the house and for us to gear into a less car-centered life.
We move out in a few days. We're all saying good bye to the house. They may feel the loss a little, we may feel it a lot, but there comes a time to keep the memories stored in our hearts and head and all the photos we're taking with us. The family who's moving in have a middle school boy who plays soccer and a 10-year old girl who's a ballerina. When they first came to see the house, the ballerina walked in the woods with her dad and told him, "This is my enchanted forest."
Yes, time for a young family to grow up here. We'll miss this home but we're lacing up our walking shoes. And are grateful we have grown children who cared enough about their childhood home--and the turmoil their parents face in leaving it--to spend a day to say goodbye to all it represents and to cheer us on.
Our son reminds his dad, who would rather not move, that many people our age stay on in their homes out of inertia and that doing the same old, same old is to stagnate. We should be bold and try something new.
The shoe is on the other foot: It's always been our job to be there for them whenever they face major or minor turmoil in their lives. Not they're offering us emotional support at a wrenching time for us. Makes all that investment in parenting worth the while.