"Oh Pa, You talk like an Irishman."
Home is where the heart is, without question. It’s the people, not the building or even the land that creates the soulful entity of “home.”
But there is a beautiful complement to the metaphysical idea of home that comes with knowing every inch, and board, and nail of the physical house. It’s a connection that my mother enjoyed with her house of 46 years and which I admire for the fullness of her relationship to a specific place.
My father did not tinker much around the house; it was my mother who had her hands on every wall of the 10 rooms to paint or to wallpaper, to hang pictures or curtains. There was many a day from kindergarten to high school that I would come home and the downstairs bathroom was newly wall papered or the fireplace had been painted a new color. It was a loving expression of creativity with an artful eye-—it made the house itself alive and flowing concurrent to our lives.
Curtain treatments were changed seasonally on curtain rods that were “up on a prayer” as Mom always said. She knew every one of the house’s idiosyncrasies—-which walls were true and which weren’t, which floors were level and which pitched—-and the meaning of every sound from the floorboard creaks to the radiator heat to the thud of a shoe falling out of a shoebag.
The house stood witness to the phases of our family: the nuclear 4 of us; my mother’s mother coming to live just as I left for college; my father dying just after I graduated college and moved into the city; my brother moving out to get married; my grandmother dying. Through it all my mother kept its décor fresh and the gardens thriving and attended to the bigger structural things of new roofs, new siding, new ceilings.
Now, after four and a half decades, my mother has sold the house to move into a lovely 2-bedroom condo. It’s the natural progression of life—-she has sold to a couple who are just starting out, even younger than she and my father were when they were the buyers from the original owners.
Her possessions of course move with her, and her flesh and blood (and Santa) will find her in the new place. But her years of physical work and tending and caring for the bricks and mortar are a gift to those who now follow. All that toil and attention to the building--It’s an honorable piece of a life’s work.
The closing was today. It’s quite the secular ritual: after countless documents were signed around the table, ownership transferred.
Afterward, I had a hankering for Chinese food, which was a little unusual. We went to a restaurant across from the train station for convenience. As I was getting ready to catch my train back to the city, I noticed that the restaurant Muzak was playing “Auld Lang Syne.” In May. Unbelievable. Surely it was the universe saying to my mother, 'how sweet are the memories of your family that made your house a home, at this special time of moving on.'