This past Monday my mom moved out of the house that I had lived in since middle school. I helped her pack up dozens of cardboard boxes which we stacked in the living room and kitchen, and I helped remove family photos from the wall to put away into storage. We made piles for donations, piles for keepsakes and piles for trash. We stayed up until the early hours of the morning Sunday night, the cool October wind rushing in through open windows as the sounds of crickets and rustling branches became hushed by sunrise. In all the packing and preparing I had preoccupied my mind so heavily that as I got ready for bed for the last time in that house, I hardly felt any different. I had expected to feel something. It was in the morning as the movers began to load up the boxes into the truck on the driveway that all the emotions and feelings of change came rushing towards me—I was leaving this place. I was sad to leave this place.
I fall in love with places too easily, and I was really in love with my mom’s house. We moved there when I was in middle school, and a great deal of my memories are embedded in the walls. I got ready for junior prom in that house, for my high school graduation, and I packed for college in my old bedroom. I got ready for Show Choir competitions in the basement, painting my nails at midnight and frantically packing my costumes and curling iron. It’s the little things that come to mind now—the way that rainbows were painted on the wood floor by the sun, which cast light off the glass table and projected blues and greens around the room. I remember the snow, the way it would fall outside the windows and slowly accumulate into gentle slopes atop the dying grass.
I remember the cold drafts that would come in near the doors, and the crash of lightning during summer storms. The smell of coffee in the morning, and the sounds of the television on at night. My mom and I would often sit outside under the shade of the trees and call my sister, the wind carrying the fragrant smell of early autumn. My black cat would bask in the streaks of sunlight that came into the living room. We had Thanksgiving and birthday parties there. When my sister came to visit after spending a year in Hong Kong, we strung banners and streamers from the ceilings and a big sign that said, “Welcome Home.” It was truly a beautiful home.
Of course, I remember the bad things too. The basement had too many spiders. When it would rain, water would leak in through the walls and ruin the carpet. I remember the dread of going down to the basement after a heavy rain, anticipating the worst. I remember a lot of things. I remember staying up until the early hours of the morning crying with my sister about life. My grandmother got sick and stayed with us for a short while. I remember watching the ambulance pull into the driveway, lights flashing as my mom screamed at me to let them in. I remember seeing the stretcher and holding my grandma’s hand. She recovered, and even as she was weak, she would come into the kitchen to help me do the dishes. I remember the smell of smoke.
We moved on Monday, and I was dreading it. For several weeks prior I felt anxious and uneasy at leaving a place that I had called home for so long, and a place that really felt like a home. I felt at peace in that house. I was scared to leave because I was scared that in the process of moving, I would leave a piece of myself behind. When the movers came and loaded all the boxes onto the truck, I looked around the empty house and walked through every room, trying to imagine the life that had been lived here, and yet I didn’t feel as strong a sensation as I thought I would. In a strange way, I wanted a sentimental and emotional goodbye. I wanted to feel that heavy, sinking feeling. I’ve always fallen in love with places, and I have always grieved for them. How many times have I driven past my childhood home just to stare at the front door and the whitewashed walls?
We moved on Monday and maybe it doesn’t feel real yet. I imagine the first time I go back home it will feel strange. I will probably drive there and see unfamiliar cars parked in the driveway and then realize my mistake and turn around. Maybe I’ll stay just a little longer and wonder how they’ve decorated inside—if they too have put a family picture above the fireplace. I loved that house, but I don’t feel the grief I thought I would. I fall in love with places too easily, but even more so I fall in love with people and with the sky and the changing leaves. I know that wherever I go, these things will follow.