Thirty seven years my mom lived in our house.
She raised two pretty darn great kids with in it's walls.
Stayed strong through two divorces.
Beat the hell out of breast cancer.
She housebroke a crazy puppy and spoiled three cats.
She painted its walls the brightest colors you've ever seen, from our 1970s chartreuse kitchen to the pulsing violet of my bedroom turned guest room.
At one point in time she negotiated familial war while trying to house four teenagers under one roof with only one full bathroom.
It was a good house. A great home.
A little over three weeks ago we bid it a fond farewell.
My mom retired and came running toward her grandkids - the true lights of her life. Both my brother and I said goodbye to a place we hadn't lived in since the Nineties, but somehow it will always be home to us both.
As I walked through the packed up house there I knew there were details, memories, smells that would be missed greatly.
The sturdy door handles, the creak on the stairs that always got you caught. The way the sun splattered the first floor in perfect puddles of warmth, begging an animal to nap in an inconvenient spot. How we packed the living room with friends and family and laughter and martinis as often as possible.
I thought of the girls, and a boy or two, who congregated at my mother's - in the living room, huddled in the kitchen, sprawled across the TV room floor; a room that was really designed to fit two people, yet some how we managed to slam bodies into the double digits for movie nights.
Sitting on the deck, by far my mother's favorite spot, I thought about how the yard has changed. Now it is lush with beautiful gardens - hostas, black eyed susans, rhododendron, daisies and poppies - and surrounded by a beautiful wooden fence, lawn perfectly manicured. The birds and squirrels have been well fed over the past several years; even the pine tree has it's own personality. In my youth there was no fence; our yard and our neighbor's yard was one big playground for us and the neighborhood kids. There were wiffle ball and kick ball tournaments, week long camp outs, birthday parties and graduations. The lawn was worn and there was no room for gardening with all the play that occurred. Years ago the branches on the trees were low and ideal for climbing high into the sky, perfect leafy hideouts. The cat's and dog's ashes are in that back yard, staying in the place they loved best.
By the time I arrived home for the final packing phase my favorite part of the yard was gone - the hammock. Hung beneath the shade of the largest pine tree you've ever seen, the hammock was bliss. I would sit in it and plot and scheme with my girlfriends; I may have held a boy's hand while swaying in it. I spent my 35th birthday reading and drinking mimosas in it. When Addie was three months old she napped on my chest in the shade of the pine tree, and last summer she pushed Brenna gently back and forth in it. The hammock was our own little slice of heaven.
As I walked through each room I took my time to say a small goodbye to the details. The grooves in my bedroom floor from the wheels on my trundle bed, my door that never closed all the way no matter how hard I slammed it. I closed the blinds on my bedroom window and said goodbye to the house right next door, which in my childhood was home to seven kids, two of whom would sit at their bedroom window while I sat at my mine and we'd talk into the night.
Looking at my mother's empty room I couldn't help but think of the mornings I would crawl into her bed to chat; even as a mother myself. The beautiful safeness of being somewhere so bone achingly familiar. I rembered the morning I saw her in bed after she was hit head on by a drunk driver or the days following her masectomy, where all I wanted to do was crawl into bed next to her and have her assure me it, she, was going to be okay.
I paused at my brother's door remembering all the Christmas mornings I would make him wake up so we could see if Santa had come; or sitting on his bed crying when we learned that our Grandma had died.
Even the bathroom had memories - the time my brother broke the door jamb hours before we had family coming to visit because I stole his money jar or the ill-thought out experimenting with rubbing alcohol and matches.
I paused on the sloped final step of the staircase, wondering if it was sloped from the years of riding laundry baskets down as sleds or from the hours spent stretching calves after distance runs. At the bottom of the stairs was our half bath that was once a coat closet, a fact that kept my best childhood friend from ever using it.
Our living room and kitchen - the epicenters of gatherings. Coming home from college I would get together with my high school girlfriends and giggle and share inappropriate stories while my mother gleefully listened on. The kitchen table, where a gazillion meals were served, including the infamous plate of cabbage and my alltime favorite "macaroni and cheese and hamburger shit". The wall in our pantry was a tribute to the early and mid nineties - signed by every visitor who entered our home; chock full of song lyrics, declarations of love and general foolishness.
Our front door - the scene of every first day of school photo, with the dog dutifully in the background. The door that I couldn't open after one night misbehaving at Tanglewood. The door that always welcomed me back.
There is no way to truly capture the soul of my childhood home. It was full of music, laughter, chaos and warmth; it magically grew with us and sheltered us.
There are so many memories within those walls. Memories that will always be with us and those who shared that home with us. They don't stay behind, they come along for the next part of the journey.