Hate is a strong word and should not be used lightly. With that in mind, I’d like to tell you that my whole life, I have HATED change. In 4th grade, I cried for days because my mom traded her old diesel car for a brand new minivan. I would cry at the end of the school year, not because of my passion for learning, but because I knew a change would come in a few months. So, it shouldn’t throw any defibrillators into action when I tell you that the last three months have been agonizing. I wasn’t having to adjust to a new ride. It wasn’t that my work routine was changing. My parents once again announced they were moving from our home. But this time, I knew they were serious. They had bought a house, had a move in date ready, and left to go on a 3 week trip to rest before they (Mom) tackled 25 years worth of decorations, momentos, and memories.
Thoughout my lamentation stage, I began to recount things that I loved about our house. I’ll share with you an abridged version of the list as I know that eventually, you will need to start preparing your homes for Thanskgiving and the original list could have kept that from happening.
- I’ve seen the house transform. We redid the kitchen, added a front porch, added a back fireplace, did something to the ceiling in one room, and most rooms served various purposes over the 25 years as Mom deals with her ADD by moving crap around.
- Porch talks. If you’re a friend, you’ve probably been involved in porch talks. As we’ve aged, these talks have included more wine and beer, but the crux of them has remained the same: what is said on the porch stays on the porch. As soon as it was built in 1996, some of our most poignant family discussions have happened out there. I don’t know what made the space so magical, but we felt free to say whatever we wanted out there. Maybe it was because we had a clear shot to run down the street if it was too off color. I don’t think that was it, because the porch made our parents more likely to say yes to us. I have talked my dad into several purchases that I didn’t deserve on that swing. When we built the fireplace out back, the porch talks translated easily out there in the winter months.
- Nobody had a key, everyone knew our garage code, and everyone knew that you don’t knock or announce yourself, you just come in. In fact, it wasn’t unusual to walk in yelling for mom and dad and to find one of their friends or our friends watching TV or rummaging in the fridge saying they haven’t seen anyone home yet!
- There was always room for more people. We usually asked our parents out of respect, but I can’t think of a time thar we were told we couldn’t have company. Whether it was a study group in high school, or 10 friends from college, my parents fed, loved, and cared for them like they were their own.
- Our house had a long(ish) hallway from the living area, past our bedrooms, to my parents room. I learned to identify the people and pets I loved most by their footsteps. I could hear when my sister was tiptoeing into the living area because she couldn’t sleep. I could tell whether my dad was dressed in tactical gear or a suit as he left for his job at corrections. I could tell when my mom’s ever-present stomach issues were on point by how quickly her tiny feet were hitting the hardwood.
- My parents’ room. I can’t count how many Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons that multiple (if not all) members of our family would pile in their bed to read the paper, laugh, talk, and pick on each other. In fact, we had a lot of house, but we all congregated in their room. Dad has the best shower products, and when we started living away, we knew we could bask in his mini Sephora instead of lugging our toiletries around!
- It’s where we held Molly for the first time. Where we cheered on every milestone she reached, where we watched her grow up, and where we hugged her, kissed those sweet cheeks, and had her tell her she loved us for the last time.
- It’s where our friends have gathered to carry us. Not only did they descend upon us for weeks when Molly died, but they were there for each surgery, medical crisis, birthday, anniversary, death threat, election night, and everything in between.
The coupling of the chaos of the beginning of the school year and coaching season and a July of cataract convalescing, I haven’t been the help to my parents that I should. This past Saturday, I put my brave face on, loaded up my thug pug, and headed to see my parents. I didn’t say that I was, “going home.” Most of the stuff in my “home” was gone. When I walked into the new house, my parents weren’t there. It was just a house, I thought. But then, I saw the table that had hosted so many memories of laughter and tears out on the back porch, hoisted up on 4 paint cans, and I thought maybe I was home. Later, I saw that my nephew and his T-Rex thought so too, as Wilkes had seamlessly blended the toy into the decor next to one of Dad’s antique statues. That’s the mark of a Garner home, beauty and irreverence.
Within minutes, Mama, Daddy, Griffin, Wilkes and I were all there giggling and laughing. We were all happy. We were all healthy. It felt like home. Shortly after, some friends came in town from Covington. They stayed and visited until well after dark. We laughed and ate and talked, again it was home.
I worried that we were leaving Molly by leaving the only home she knew. No other hallway could hold the memory of when she dragged all of our bedroom furniture out there to switch our rooms when I graduated from college. No other study/den turned dining room could remember how she tripped on my barons, fell into the TV, and knocked her two front teeth out. (Sidebar: Who thought it was a good idea to give a blind girl batons?) No other foyer would be the place where I last told her that I loved her. What I knew in my head to be true, finally transcribed the message on to my heart. Bricks and mortar don’t hold memories. They’re the backdrop for the memories. The memories are in your heart and shared with the people who star in them.
What I loved about our old “house” is actually what I love about our home, and home is wherever we are. Friends still show up unannounced and feel at home. Dad still has good bath products. The footsteps have a shorter distance to travel, but their imprint is still soothing. Porch talks will transfer to the new back porch. Molly won’t enter those doors physically, but her spirit is in the hearts of all who enter those doors. Perhaps, by not seeing the bricks and mortar of our memories every day, we can focus on the emotions we had in those moments. We were happy, we were proud, we were mad, we were sad, we were bewildered, we were ecstatic, we were sad, we were eager, we were, we are.
Welcome home to all of our family and friends. The bones have changed, but the guts remain.
More than meat loves salt,