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The Big Move: Good night, little house

Submitted by on Tuesday, 18 August 2009 No Comment

big_guy_cleanIt was the loneliest half hour I’d spent in years.

I’d dropped the guys at their grandmother’s so they wouldn’t be underfoot as the movers worked. So it was just me in the house we were about to leave after a decade, boxed in by a mountain of boxes and memories.

In the backyard I saw citrus trees that were only a foot tall when Dad and I planted them our first year in the house. They now topped the privacy fence.

In front of the fireplace I glimpsed ghosts of the colorful toy piano Big Guy loved when he was a babe. He could smash the keyboard with his fists and the footboard with his toes. The chair zoomed the length of it.

I saw shadows of Boots scooting across the carpet in his peculiar crawl that made him look like an inch worm crossed with a crab.

I replayed milestones – a wedding, two baptisms, holiday dinners. Jack-o-lanterns on the stoop and Easter eggs in the yard.

It left made me sad and confused. Why be melancholy about so many wonderful memories? Does human nature make us look back at the good times as we face great change and fear happy days never will be here again?

Sentiment aside, the house had its drawbacks. A master bedroom shower that hadn’t worked in three years. Water-damaged carpet from the pad leak that disabled the shower. A roof that doused Boots’ bookcase during hard rains. Backyard sprinklers so chronically leaky the landlord disabled them a chunk at a time rather than repair them.

Still, I’ve never walked away from any town, no matter how much I hated it, without at least a few fond memories. Despite its disrepair, our little house had seen ample joy – literally, the guys’ entire lives.

There was a crowd at the end, a combination of folks who came to say goodbye and people stopping in to scavenge leftovers the movers wouldn’t load and I couldn’t fit in the car.

I saw the last of them out, then walked next door to return the neighbor’s vacuum. Something drew me back, though. I turned the key and opened the balky door a final time.

I went through room by room, letting the ghosts romp one last time.

“Good bye, baby Big Guy,” I said, patting an imaginary rump near the spot where his crib once was.

“Good bye, baby Boots,” I said, hugging him as he railed against the rails of the same crib, demanding “Thomas! Thomas!” first thing in the morning.

“Good bye, trees,” I said, seeing us pick citrus for our annual vat-o-lemonade.

“Good bye, everyone,” I said to the post-wedding and baptism guests gathered in the living room.

“Good bye, little house,” I whispered, choking, I turned the key in the lock final time, then turned and walked away.

We’re almost settled in our new little house now, where all the showers work and the carpet is clean and soft. There are no sprinklers, but who needs them in the desert?

Still, it didn’t feel right until we unpacked the last kitchen box and found the refrigerator magnets that held the guys’ collection of pictures and drawings.

“Now it looks like our house,” Big Guy said.

A few days later, he had a question. “Do you miss our old house?” he asked over breakfast.

“Not one bit,” I said.

He smiled. “Me either.”

And why should we? Everything that was truly important in the old house we have with us in the new one.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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