Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.

2 Comments:

What a lovely expression of understanding! I've been troubled by similar feelings - my parents moved 500 miles when I left for college, and then back about 15 years ago. Neither of those houses was "home".

Using your understanding, I can go "home" to visit without it feeling too fake.

Thank you!

By Anonymous Diann, at 5:49 PM  

So glad you've made peace with that house. I am spoiled that my parents still live in the house I grew up in, although part of me wishes they'd move to something smaller and easier to manage, and make decisions about their junk now, so we don't have to. Probably won't happen, though.

By Blogger Mary, at 11:44 PM  

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Sunday, July 29, 2007  

I never did like that Powhatan County house. It never touched me; not my concept of functionality, nor my esthetic taste, most especially not my sentiments. I remember the mixture of hurt and insult I felt when I read the letter from Mama, telling me they had moved to an apartment complex deep in Chesterfield county, while their new house was being built. I hadn’t even known they were planning to move and here my childhood home was gone. The wonderful house with the balcony in back, the carriage house off the alley, the wide side yard, the basement with floors so warm you could take a nap on them in the winter - gone forever. Truly gone, for the new owners had had to sell off the side yard to pay for the it and someone with the most appallingly vulgar taste had built an utterly hideous cedar shingled 70’s bungalow in a lovely 1920’s Richmond neighborhood, smack on the yard where I used to play. Whenever I happen to drive past it I shudder at the ugliness of it - even now, 30 years later. How could people have so little concept of beauty or even apropriatness?

In addition those magical time-travel-trips to Grandma’s wonderful Washington House, I’d hoped to be able to take William to visit my childhood home at Christmas time, to show him the special ornaments that I’d played with, to walk with him up to my library or my ten-cent-store, to stroll with him across the Nickel Bridge over to Maymont or Dogwood Dell where I’d once been The Spirit Of The Woods in their summer theater program, to let him run up and down the steps of the Carillon. Instead, a visit to Grandmother was an extra 30 minutes of driving through the most banal suburban strip-mall sprawl, to an utterly mundane house that held no memories for me and no stories to tell William.

In time I grew used to the drive, figured out the shortcuts through the city, had enough money to burn up that much gas and enough seniority at work to take off that many days days to spend up there. I’d tell BD I was going to Richmond to see my folks and he’d correct me with exasperated voice, "It’s not Richmond! It’s Powhatan!" But it was Richmond, since I had to go there first to get to my parents’. And I could certainly appreciate the joy they found in country living. I’d sought and found that same pleasure myself. I could admire the few little touches they added to the house; the sun room, the gazebo. Of course, my PTSD dad was a great one to put things of forever and a day and then suddenly make snap decisions when he was backed into a corner and had the fewest options. Under those conditions, his results were always half-hearted halfway efforts. In the 30 years he lived in that house, he never did get around to finishing off the upstairs so, instead of having plenty of bedrooms for his 4 children, 4 in-laws, and 7 grandchildren to stay in, he had a pull-out sofa - one pull-out sofa - in the room he used as an office. You couldn’t even enter that house by the front door. They never built a walkway up to it so everyone just entered through their sloppy, cluttered garage. Dad never was one to put anything away and as he aged it just became easier to ignore the white noise for the eyes that lined the snaky path from garage door to kitchen. In fact, as my parents immobility increased you could see their house shrink; down to the path from bedroom to recliner chair, from recliner chair to refrigerator. The dining room table was 3 inches deep in papers, receipts, empty pill boxes, dog leashes, junk mail, coins and other pocket clutter. Anything more than an arm’s reach from those narrow tracks just grew dustier and dustier with disuse.

Eventually even that narrow path became too much for them; first my mother, who is now in assisted living, then my father, who is ever so slightly more mobile. And so.

And so.

And so, that house that I never came to like, even though Mama and Daddy loved it so; that house that always seemed like the rebuke I had earned by growing up and moving away, in the oh-so-natural way of us all; that house that seemed to say "Humph. So you wanted to leave home, did you? Well. Then. I will see to it you’ll never go back." - that home I feared I’d never pry my parents out of, no matter how old or feeble or sickly they became. That house is nobody’s home now. Daddy is in his new apartment. Mama is in hers. There is some cleaning to do this week, but Sister is hiring someone to do that. The contents will be sold next weekend. The repairs, prior to putting the house on the market will begin the week after that. Once the house is sold, I can’t imagine any reason for ever driving down that road again.

There is no sense of triumph about this even though, in every way possible, it is a good thing. There is a slight, dull ache in my heart that I won’t be following a routine I’ve practiced for 30 years. There is a sadness that my parents don’t live together any more. Every permutation of the myth that I could "go home" has evaporated, the way it does for us all, because, in spite of what the quantum physicists tell us, for all practical purposes time only moves in one direction.

This utter knowing that it’s gone, it’s over, acts like some emotional archaeologist’s pick, dredging up memories of how nice it was. My adult relationship with my parents is, has been for 30 years, far nicer than my childhood one. These memories are the only things that could make me nostalgic for the Powhatan house and really, they are the memories of loving my parents, not of loving the place they lived. Eventually I believe just the love will remain and I will forget about the house.

But for now, for a little while more, I will grieve over closing down that house; that ordinary, plain, unwelcoming place where I never could get comfortable. I will weep a little that I could never love that place and will never get the chance to and couldn’t begin to if I were given another chance anyway. I will acknowledge the role it played in fulfilling dreams my parents had and value it for giving them things they’d always wanted. I will - oh my - I had never thought about this before - but I will love that house because it made my parents happy. Not the kind of happiness I would ever want, but the sort of happiness they could feel, they could savor, they could carry in the pockets of their hearts. Ha. Well. Who would have thought it. After 30 years I can finally connect with that crusty nest of a house and thank it for the job it did.

Huh. Who’d a thought?

posted by Bess | 7:09 AM
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