"Why are we doing this? This is the question Paterfamilias asks as he sits by the kitchen window, looking out over our still-winter garden. What we are doing is downsizing our worldly goods, dumping the paper trails of our lives and otherwise dismantling our house. We are moving from a 4-bedroom home in a car-dependent suburb to a two-bedroom apartment in an urban setting that has a high walkability factor.
We moved into this house when our children were 5 and 6 years old. Now they both have children of their own who are older than that and homes of their own in cities far from ours.
Uber Son put the germ of selling into our heads. His message: Move while you're still young and energetic enough to enjoy an active life style. Don't let the house--and its memories--be an anchor.
Alpha Daughter, more attached in her way to the house, seemed sad to hear we were taking up her brother's idea, but she did not try to talk us out of it.
It's not emotionally easy to sell a home that's filled with memories of family occasions celebrated, achievements gained and disappointments acknowledged. The process is hardest on us--we get to do the de-cluttering work and page through the detrius of our children's school lives. (It's with a sigh that we toss out their soccer and gymnastic "trophies.")But it also has an impact on our grown children. We have asked them whether they want any of our furnishings, art works or the treasures our parents left with us that we have been storing for lo some 20 years. No surprise. The answer is no. We have also asked what they intend to do with the boxes of their papers (diaries, high school essays, masses of photos). We will not be taking those to our 2-bedroom apartment in the city.
They may have little interest in some of the valuable goods, but Alpha Daughter is sentimental about a handful of items. She would like to have the painted tea cups: They remind her of her grandmother. But, for her and our son, the porcelain figurines, the cut glass candy bowl, the silver-plated candelabras are simply signifiers of a time gone by. Not that we want to keep storing them, but they pack an emotional wallop for us: These were things that lined the shelves and sat on the tables of our childhood homes, that signaled our parents' accomplishments. Clearly, they are less evocative for our children.
But some of the things Paterfamilias and I acquired carry emotional weight for them. The grand piano, the painting over the fireplace, the Korean chest in the dining room. These are things they grew up with, pieces that formed the background of our family's life.
While selling the house is a venture that involves Paterfamilias and myself--we're closing the sale, arranging for movers, and deciding what to sell--on another level it involves our children and their sense of home.
Alpha Daughter and family are coming here for a visit this weekend--in part to say goodbye to the house. We'll see if she's uneasy about the goods we plan to give away--and if she wants to parse out her limited storage space to save some of it for her children.