We will all say a million goodbyes in our lifetimes. We will say goodbye to places and things, jobs and possibilities. Some of them will be easier than others. However, the hardest thing is almost always saying goodbye to your firsts. Be it your first bicycle or your first love, something about it being the first makes it infinitely harder. It's as though that person or thing had some early intimate knowledge of who you were and are because they were there for the beginning.
I said goodbye to the home I grew up in last week. It was the first and only home my family ever knew. The place where a girl became a woman, a boy became a man, and a couple became a family — it was more than a childhood home. It was my family's home. And despite the fact that we no longer have keys to 24 Redwood Road, it will always be my family's home.
It took so long for my parents to sell the house that I honestly came to wonder if it was ever going to happen. I remember them putting the sign out on the lawn just as I was starting to look for my own apartment. It seemed scary and kind of unnerving that strangers would soon be walking through my house trying to decide if it lived up to their standards. I would sit on the couch avoiding eye contact as they walked through and made comments. But all I really wanted to do was scream "GET THE HELL OUT OF MY HOUSE, YOU DON'T DESERVE IT!"
Our house had no flaws, only wonderments. It all seems kind of ironic considering I spent so much effort trying to leave it. Going across the country for college, and moving out just a couple of months ago. I try to put every aspect of my house into the context of my daily life. I think, whether or not realize it, I seek to recreate the type of feelings I got from experiencing my life through the different rooms in my house.
Saying goodbye to your childhood home feels a lot like saying goodbye to a vault. There are so many things that are locked up within the walls of that house, more than anybody could ever imagine.
It was the only constant that made it through family photos, sadness, cancer, Little League, puberty, Easter, remembered birthdays, forgotten birthdays, fires, floods, break-ins, sneak-outs, surprise parties, 3 a.m. phone calls, records, tapes, and DVDs. It saw blackouts, proms, and emotional breakdowns. It saw it all, absorbed it all. It never asked a single question and never refused a single request. It was a second skin, a blanket of love that I was constantly wrapped in. We all were.
Even now as I feel the heat behind my eyes, I didn't expect to feel the sense of loss that I did when I walked out of that house for the last time. I knew the day was coming when I would have to say goodbye.
It was like watching a dark cloud approaching from off in the distance. I knew it would arrive, but it was just a matter of when. But it didn't feel real. Kind of the way you know your mom is going to tell you that playtime is over and it’s time to get inside before it starts to rain. But as those weeks turned into days and the days turned into hours, I could feel the change. The ending came quick and startling, like those thunderstorms in the summer that flooded our lawns.
I tried to say goodbye to my home. As I did my last lap around the house, not knowing exactly what I was doing, I would point to spots around the house and try to recall a memory. I could have done it for weeks. But reliving a thousand memories there would not have made it easier to leave. Dare I say it would have made it infinitely more difficult?
I have this thing I do with cards people send me. After I’ve held on to them for a certain period of time, and before I throw them out, I kiss them. I’m not sure why I started doing it, but it felt wrong to throw something away without giving it some sort of affection, some sort of a thank-you.
So that’s what I did with my house. I walked around the house and kissed a wall in every room. Even as I write this I know it sounds ridiculous. It was just a thing, a pile of wood and stone and glass and paint. But I didn’t know how else to say goodbye.
I wanted that house to know that I loved it. That I was so grateful for every tear it had absorbed, for every scream it had ignored or acknowledged. That for as many things that I broke, scratched, scraped, or dented, whenever I felt broken, scratched, scraped or dented I could always find refuge in that house. I could always find sleep in that house. And I would never feel as loved, as absolutely cosmically loved as I did in that house.
And I suppose that is all any of us can ever hope for in our lives — to come from a place so absolutely saturated with love that anything less than that seems completely unsatisfactory. I know that I am lucky that two such wonderful people chose to create a beautiful family in a big white house on a quiet street in Suburbia. And as I do not get to play a part in the future of 24 Redwood Road, its past is forever locked up inside my heart, constantly reminding me of all that I have and all that I am lucky to be.