There comes a time when the kids are grown and the house we raised them in is too big, too much to maintain, a burden to carry or a source of little and big repair bills. The roof might need replacing. The driveway is cratering. The washer and dryer are aging out. Or all of the above.
We were ready to sell the home we lived in for 43 years and move to something easier. Plus, we wanted to try an urban lifestyle.
We were ready to move out and on, but were our children? They have been living far from us with families and homes of their own. So why would we even think they mattered in our decision to sell.
We checked in with them anyway. The house was where they grew up--their story of origin. Even as they became independent and moved to other parts of the country and world, the house was there as a refuge--a safety net. When they married and started families, they brought their children to the house to show them where they grew up, what their life was like when they were young. They took pleasure in showing them a secret passageway between rooms, the hill on the driveway where they practiced kicking a soccer ball. It wasn't just our children who were attached to the house. One of our grandchildren spent enough time visiting us there that she became friendly with the girls across the street and knew every dog that lived nearby.
It would have taken an emotionally persuasive argument for our children to change our minds about selling the family manse. They had no desire to do so. They were behind the move. But a day before we closed on the sale, they both flew home--without spouses or children--to say goodbye to the house and the neighborhood and to reminisce about the riches of the family life we had known there.
This visit happened nearly five years ago, but the memory of it came flooding back as I was reading Claire Tomalin's "brisk and sparkling" biography of Jane Austen. Tomalin wrote about the effect on the Austen children (all of them adults) of their parents' decision to leave Steventon, the home where Jane and her brothers and sisters were born and raised. (Jane and her older sister, Cassandra, still lived with their parents.)
Jane was greatly distressed [by the news.]....[A niece] was told her Aunt Jane fainted. The whole thing was a shock, and a painful one.
All the Austen children were affected by it. The fact that every one of them who was absent and could possibly return to Steventon--[four of Jane's brothers]--made a point of doing so before their parents left--"while Steventon is ours,' as Jane put it--suggests how much they felt it as the closing of a door on their childhood and the end of a way of life."
painting: Edward Hopper