All of these things, these sights and smells and sounds–the garage door opening, pot roast, pencil scratchings in an upstairs closet to show each kid’s growth progress, carpet and tile, sink fixtures, backyard mud, cabinets and loft stairs and cedar closets, a basement unfinished and finished, a fireplace and the gold poker with the blackened end, the blinds and the curtains–I want the details to stay with me. I’m scared I will forget.
I imagine that if I had a goodbye conversation with the house, we’d recall things together room by room. How the kitchen was the only place in the house with the light on in the mornings and that the tile floor was cold, but nothing a pair of socks couldn’t fix. There was breakfast and the humor of my sitting at the table half asleep trying to put two words together as my mom, who had been awake for hours and had already consumed several cups of coffee, tried to converse with me. Dinner conversations or homework sessions, since doing homework in one’s bedroom might mean missing out on something going on elsewhere in the house. Lots happened in the kitchen, more than just cooking and eating. Time and conversation together, evenings well-spent, lessons learned.
The house might recall the pretty dining room, too nice for a normal dinner but perfect for holidays. How the china in the cabinet would clink when I ran by it too fast or the hardwood floors that served as an Olympic ice skating rink. Or where our backpacks and lunchboxes sat perched on the corner of the area rug, waiting to be grabbed on our way out the door.
The house might laugh a little when it thought of the den’s many roles and various settings. How it served as a schoolroom, palace, cabin, prison, stable, office and once or twice the deserts of Egypt. Home to the Christmas tree, the den always hosted Christmas morning. Presents and screaming, lots of it, but you know little girls can’t help themselves when they open presents like doll clothes and rain boots and Mall Madness. Maybe it’d remember more seriously that the den was the place I sat with my parents and watched the news on the night of September 11th (Do I need to say the year? We all know which one.). Just wood, concrete and sheetrock, but I felt really safe there that night with my mom and dad.
The house would speak fondly of the living room, an exhibition of my mother’s affinity for Georgia O’Keefe paintings and home to the grand piano. Then maybe the house would groan about how I made it suffer half an hour every day through my attempting to become a concert pianist. We might get a chuckle over how I would go into the living room every Christmas and speak to the mirror in there, recounting the day, what presents I got and affirming that it was in fact a great Christmas that year. Sometimes the living room was a stage for a ballet or Thanksgiving play. Perhaps the house lost count of how many times I acted dual roles, both as a Pilgrim and an Indian, for lack of cast members.
Then upstairs to my bedroom as a child, one I shared with both my older and younger sisters at different times. We might recall how as little kids supposed to be asleep, my older sister told me about Jesus and the greatest of all Loves and how I prayed to Him that night and became a part of His family.
Then, I’d stand at the front door and look the house in the eye and I’d try to say thank you, but I probably wouldn’t be able to get the words out. But it would know that I was grateful and that there would be love always.
And in reality, the conclusion, the last time ever in this house, was nothing different than what it always was. The greatest hindsight came to me as I stood in the dim hallway alone on my last night. With a moment to myself, I looked around. The kitchen betrayed the late night sausage bread I had just scarfed down along with the dessert dishes from only a few hours earlier spent with the kindest of family friends. The dining room still displayed the graduation decorations put up for my brother over the weekend. Books and papers and laptops on the table. Noise, phone chargers, TV. A running dishwasher and half-empty bottles of soda. Luggage and photographs and family. And while I lamented the final night spent in my favorite place on earth, I couldn’t help but feel immense gratefulness. Despite this closure and imminent change, we are healthy and alive and living, with friends and things and gifts beyond our dreams and imaginations. I saw and see life being lived. Life and love and us moving along, urged on by the power of good memories formed with the ones you love most.