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A Story About Moving

My parents are moving from my childhood home.  They moved there when I was four and I remember having my fifth birthday in the backyard, with kids climbing all over our new swing set.  The move is not really a surprise–they announced their intent last summer, but it has been a long journey of falling in love with a new town and saying goodbye to an old space.

The new town is a little under an hour away, so still close, but a bit farther out.  It’s really where part of my heart is regardless, so it’s special that they came to love this space too.   But I count my parents amongst my best friends, so there is a bittersweetness too in having your best friends move incrementally farther away, even if they are moving to a place you love.

Packing up the house has been both an exercise in excavation, and a series of hard choices of what to save.  Do I really need my old Fugazi LPs if I don’t have any way to play them?  Can my heart handle parting with my old childhood rocking chair?

Every few years, I remember and try to find this old  short story that had a dictator that kept severed ears in a jar that were described like dried apricots.  I can never remember who wrote it, and while I remember the final line, about some of the ears listening to the ground and the rest listening to the sky, the story appears to be un-Googleable.  As I dug through boxes, this short story percolated to the top, finding me rather than a moment where I am chasing it.

I thought disassembling the house was going to be impossibly hard; that I would be breaking down and weeping over every box.  But it isn’t really like that.  There are times when my voice catches or moments where I feel a bit numb, but there is also an important realization in all of this.  One that makes you realize how important people are, and how easy it is to give up the objects and places as long as you have those people.  That the thing I love is my family, and not necessarily my family in that house.

And slowly, as each object is removed from the house, and it becomes more like an empty box than the space from your memories, you realize how much a house is merely a blank canvas, one that can be gessoed over and reused again and again.  And then you walk outside.  And you close the door.

I don’t think you can ever truly be ready for a goodbye, the heart just doesn’t work like that.  It always wants one more minute.  But it also feels right to be there right now, helping put closure on one adventure and sealing boxes so there is room for the next one that is straining to begin.

Josh read this before I finished and he commented on my quiet perspective.  But I’m sure I will cry when I walk out for the last time.  I’m sure I will cry the first time I dial their phone number and it’s not the one I memorized as a child.  I am much more sentimental than most, and I’ve even been crying over saying goodbye to bad memories.  Because even amongst the bad memories are these little kernels of light that remind you that all that came before shaped you into who you are right now.  And I’m glad I grew up in that house, with my parents and siblings.


1 Vee { 07.13.10 at 7:19 am }

“One that makes you realize how important people are, and how easy it is to give up the objects and places as long as you have those people.” I think it is going to painfully difficult to clear out my house, because I no longer have the person I only have the objects. You are right, it would be a lot easier if had the person.

I hope the last time you walk out of the house isn’t too hard on you.

2 Jennifer { 07.13.10 at 8:04 am }

Sorry to hear that this is hard, but also glad to read about your epiphany re: people vs. objects.

It is hard to give up things that have sentimental value. However, one thing that I have learned and now embrace is to actually enjoy letting things go into the world…setting them free knowing that 1) someone else will get to enjoy those objects and create great memories; and 2) I’m making room to create new memories.

I too hope that the last time you walk out of your house won’t be too hard, but perhaps you can think about the next little girl who will live there and have a birthday party in the backyard and will grow up in that house creating her own set of memories…

3 Tara { 07.13.10 at 8:27 am }

Thank you for sharing…we moved every 5-8 years when I was a kid so don’t really have that attachement…I’ve always been a little jealous of friends who’s parents still live in the house they grew up in & the memories they hold…

4 Genevieve { 07.13.10 at 8:38 am }

I remember when my grandparents moved out of the house I lived in briefly as a child…where my mom had grown up. It was a bizarre feeling. Same as when my mom moved out of my childhood home. Years later I had occasion to go back to the grandparents house…when my grandfather passed. I met the new owners and was invited in…and the weirdest thing happened. They had recarpeted, painted, etc, and yet, when I looked in the rooms, I had a vision of the house as it had been, and saw 2 generations of the family kids playing, running around…ghosts, if you will. It was hands-down one of the most bizarre moments of my life. Hard to explain the feeling in my heart. I can imagine what you are feeling…

5 Deanna { 07.13.10 at 8:41 am }

It is hard to leave a childhood home where memories are run rapid. Have you ever heard Miranda Lamberts new song? House that built me.. Excellent song..

6 Katie { 07.13.10 at 8:43 am }

My mom is moving out of our home later this month. I didn’t grow up there since we moved around a lot as a child, but my brother did and I spent a majority of my life there. I have many fond memories of that house. It will be a bittersweet day to hand over the keys, but it’s for the best. For my mom, it will be a chance for her to start over and have a place of her own; the first chance she’s had to do something like that post-divorce. And like you wrote, it’s not about the house. It’s about the people inside of it. I’m excited for my mom to make memories in a new home: the one where my brother will celebrate graduating from college and getting married, and hopefully the one where my husband and I celebrate the holidays with our first child.

7 Heather { 07.13.10 at 8:59 am }

My mom and dad don’t have a house. They live in the one the church owns. So every time my Dad switches churches they move (which is every few years) so I don’t have any childhood home or attachment. But my grandparents’ home – that is a different story. I can’t imagine them moving. That is the one thing that is permanent in my life, never changing (except the photos the new ones get put over the old ones so the people in the photos age). I’m not sure how I will handle it when something happens and they no longer live there or the house gets sold. I can’t even allow my mind to go there.

8 IF Crossroads { 07.13.10 at 9:11 am }

This was such an honest post and I really enjoyed reading it. It’s amazing how certain events can conjure up such stirring feelings – both good and bad.

I’ve moved 11 times since being married 12 years ago. The shortest span of time was spent in a home that I bought in Raleigh, NC in 2006. We moved in on Valentines Day that year and I loved that home more than anything in the world. When we moved out on July 1st the same year because my job had transferred me to Texas I cried and cried and cried. It was like my heart had broken in two. The funny thing is that I didn’t have time to create any memories in that space – and I think THAT hurt more than anything. I wanted to create a happy memory in that home and I never had the opportunity to do so, and it made me incredibly sad.
I’m glad you can look back with smiles and happiness over your childhood home 🙂

9 loribeth { 07.13.10 at 9:27 am }

We also moved around a lot when I was growing up, every 3-6 years (& each house was hard to leave in its own way) — but after my dad switched careers, my parents finally settled down, & have spent the last 26 years in the same house. They are starting to make noises about downsizing — we did some cleaning of the basement crawl space last summer & parted with tons of our old stuff then… but there’s still lots more there, & my mother has warned me that I’d better start bringing an extra suitcase with me when I come to visit & bring some of it back with me.

My grandparents moved out of their old house — which my great-grandparents had built & my grandmother had lived in all her life — in the mid-1980s. It was old & there were all sorts of structural problems, so they moved into an apartment (& from there into a nursing home). But there was still all sorts of stuff there, & we used to go over there to sit on the porch, & even camped out there in the summers the first while after they left. Eventually, in the mid-1990s, we cleaned the house out & let it go for unpaid taxes. It was torn down in 1998 — the same year we lost Katie. I still dream about it all the time. Like Heather, it was the one permanent home I had, in a lifetime of moving around.

You’re right, it’s not the house & the stuff that’s really important, it’s the people and the memories. But it’s still hard sometime.

10 Lori Lavender Luz { 07.13.10 at 9:40 am }

Hugs and support to you during this huge transition that maybe feels like it shouldn’t be so huge.

I got really mad at my parents when they decided to keep just one phone number: the childhood number I grew up with or the business line my dad installed after I was in college. They picked the latter and it’s still a sore spot every time I call them.


11 Kristin { 07.13.10 at 10:30 am }

What a beautiful, introspective post. Given that I am an Air Force brat, I don’t have a house like that.

12 a { 07.13.10 at 10:39 am }

You’re having a rough few months, in terms of letting the past go, aren’t you? I hope that means you’ve got many exciting things ahead!

My mom sold the house they bought before I was born about 10 years ago. I had just bought my first place, and was no longer so attached to our house. That doesn’t stop me from driving by every time I’m in the neighborhood, though…

13 neeroc { 07.13.10 at 11:05 am }

My mother still lives in the house I was born in. I can’t imagine the day she leaves, and it isn’t so much the things in the house as the memories that are triggered by turning a corner a certain way, or catching movement out of the corner of your eye. More than that though, she is a bit of a packrat, so I’m not sure where I’d stash the things she’d be offloading (it may be genetic).

14 Mina { 07.13.10 at 11:19 am }

As always, you touch some very touchy points for all of us there. The people vs. objects, the childhood’s house, packing up a life, the story you know and can’t remember the name and cannot find it in any way – all very touchy points for me. Enough to make my eyes swim.
That is because being away from my family, my attachment for objects grew even more, and I know this is not healthy, but I think I need roots, or sth… Especially since the house that has been in my father’s family for many decades is the one that I will have to sell, since chances to go back to the little remote provincial town where I was born are slim to null. And I did not even grow up there, I just spent part of my teenage years there. Still, just the thought of this hurts.

15 Justine { 07.13.10 at 12:13 pm }

My mother has lived in the same house since *she* was two years old. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for her to leave, if she can ever bring herself to do so. She lives alone, and the house is too big, but there’s too much intangible there that she needs, I think. I understand.

16 Heather { 07.13.10 at 12:16 pm }

Oh I know those emotions so well!

My parents up and sold my childhood home ( a sprawling orchard) and decided to move to live near us in Florida. The day my father arrived, my husband got the transfer to where we are now. My parents bought our house. My dream house.

There’s a lot of mixed emotions still (MY MOTHER PAINTED MY KITCHEN PURPLE!).

….and I still cry too.

17 meghan { 07.13.10 at 12:44 pm }

I love your raw honesty in this. Especially about remembering the bad times in a place. It’s funny, now that we’ve found a new house and are getting ready to move, I’m becoming much more emotional about our home. And just like you said, not just for the wonderful memories we made there, but for when Adam literally held me up in the kitchen as I sobbed over our miscarriage…or my monthly tears in the shower. I was thinking that I was crazy for romantizing those moments and missing them…glad I’m not the only one

18 HereWeGoAJen { 07.13.10 at 1:28 pm }

Moving is really hard. I absolutely hate it.

19 Liddy { 07.13.10 at 1:54 pm }

I grew up in a generational house. The same house my grandfather called his childhood home and my dad called home when he was child. It still has treasures from each generation. It is the place I go to hide out.

Moving is a hard thing to do, so many emotions and memories. I wish you the very best.

20 Kristen { 07.13.10 at 2:45 pm }

I’m a very sentimental person, yet I tend not to get very attached to “objects”, but rather the memories and feelings of the past. When I moved out of my parents’ house and when my husband, kids & I recently moved, I had tearful moments as I packed and the last time I walked around, but it wasn’t so much leaving the actual house as it was remembering all that had happened within those walls.

I hope that packing up your childhood will continue to be a offer the opportunity to reflect on where you’ve been and how that shaped who you are today. Its nice when life provides us the chance to do that – even when it comes w/some tears.

21 Bea { 07.13.10 at 5:18 pm }

I love this post.

What do I love about it? Gosh, I could just cut and paste the whole thing here below the words “that bit”. We’ve moved a few times, and I have fond memories of the places we’ve lived. They are very sentimental locations to me, and I never close the door for the last time without at least a hint of regret and a little bit of longing. And yet, you’re right – objects are so unimportant at the end of the day, and a house, once emptied, is no longer the home you cherished. And moving on and clearing out does make way for the future, and for the next adventure.

I’m glad your parents are moving somewhere special to you. I’m sure this will open the door to a whole new set of wonderful memories.


22 Kir { 07.14.10 at 1:53 pm }

I loved this post too…because after my dad died and my mom started dating the next summer, I knew eventually she would move from our hometown, from the house and I knew I would miss it.

then she sold my grandma’s house (her mom’s) when she moved with her now husband to the town 5 minutes from us.

cleaning out both of those houses was work, they were 4 stories, full basements and attics, stuff in every nook and cranny. Life in every corner. My life, my sister’s, my brother’s …my parents and letting go if it was sad and it hurt. I am very sentimental and I cried a lot those weekends packing up and moving on.

I haven’t been back to my hometown in a few years, but that last time I was, we passed by my old home and it was so familiar to me that I could have sat on the old wall and stayed there or walked in the front door and known just what it looked like. My childhood….

I know you will be ok, but I expect it will hurt, if you loved that house , that neighborhood , growing into YOU there..it should.


23 Elli Davis { 07.23.10 at 12:15 pm }

I understand your nostalgia as I have moved from one city to another quite some times during my life. It always feel strange to come to a new city where you don’t know anybody but sometimes I really enjoyed starting from a scratch.

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