I woke up early Friday morning, heart racing. It took me a second to calm down and think clearly before I realized: no one I know has a key to my childhood home. No one I know had slept there the night before. It’s no longer our “home.” Who knows if, by month’s end, it will even still be standing?
My parents bought the house more than 42 years ago. I was in first grade, and my youngest sister was months old. Two years later, my mom gave birth to my brother–by herself in their upstairs bedroom–while my dad was on a business trip. Many years later and some years apart, my dad and then my grandma passed away from cancer under hospice care in that house. Birth and death, the whole circle of life, took place under that roof.
I lived in that home for eleven years, less than the rest of my family. Still, ages six to seventeen–first grade to college freshman–are obviously formative years. Birthday parties, pets, holiday celebrations, pool parties, sleepovers…so many memories times four children who grew up together and went their own ways (though not that far) and came home with children of their own who also, some more and others less, grew up in that home.
In the last few years, each trip home involved work projects and clean-outs. We made sure for family’s sake to include some fun, a trip to the beach or the zoo. We worked hard, sifting through family treasures and piles of items to donate. Talk about looking for sparks of joy (thanks, Marie Kondo), we sorted leftovers from eight family members over four generations!
Though I’ve lived elsewhere for three decades, I feel slightly unmoored knowing that our “home” now belongs to someone else; I can only begin to imagine how adrift my mom must feel…
I cried as we drove away for the last time, tears of loss and joy, remembrance and hope for the future. And my family, sweetly understanding the enormity of the occasion, began planning our next trip to San Diego. Where would we stay? What might we do and who would we visit when we had no ‘work’ to tackle? We may not have my childhood home to return to but we will return to San Diego which, in some respects, will always be home.