Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Goodbye, Azalea House

As I sit here typing, I think of all the hours I have spent in this study room: reading Perry Mason novels on the floor while Bill uses his computer, blogging, making PowerPoints for lesson plans, singing along to music in the wee hours in the years before Katie was born, paying bills, trying to sleep with Kate in the papasan chair the first night when she was hungry and my milk wasn't in, putting together Bill's desk and bookcases...

My heart wells with excitement at all the possibilities surrounding our move. There will be new memories to make at Chatada, a playroom for Kate, a guest bedroom that could one day house a second child if that is our happy fate, a bigger yard in which to run and play, close proximity to grandparents and the neighborhood in which I grew up, better schools (should misfortune befall us so completely that we are unable to homeschool for some reason), better parks, a location in an incorporated city that has curfew and noise rules, closer access to all of our medical professionals, easier access to the Farmer's Market, a floorplan more conducive to entertaining and our large family, the kitchen of dreams...

Yet I do feel a little wistful at saying goodbye to life in our present home. I have not yet actually cried, though there have been deep sighs and the tracing of my fingertips along the walls. We can take everything with us except the structure---the walls which have bound us physically but set us free in our own little happy world we have made together. This is a home in which we have always been ourselves, with a small early portion in which we had a roommate. Ah, the roommate months. (He was sweet and nice enough, but we aren't roommate people).

I am trying to pinpoint exactly the source of my passing nostalgia and melancholy. If I am truly as excited as I think I am for the move, what accounts for those fleeting moments of longing and heaviness? I am prone to excessive sentimentality, but even so, if we take our family and our family artifacts with us, what accounts for the heart pangs when we move? Are we afraid that we did not really appreciate and honor our time in the place we are leaving? And, if we leave this place in which we have spent so much of our lives, will our memories of that phase of our lives become less vivid?

When I look at my oven, I see the first meal I ever made in this home (chicken pot pies, frozen that time). When I look at the front lawn, I remember the night Bill and I sat out under the August darkness watching the meteor shower and talking about how much we wanted the baby growing inside of me and our philosophies of existence. When I look at the corner of my family room (now occupied still by the fort), I see our Christmas trees. I still remember the first year that I decorated for Christmas and the rite of passage of separating my ornaments from my mom's collection and buying enough garland and some candles for my own mantle. When I look at Katie's room, I see every moment we have spent together since her birth and the happy anticipation of preparing for her birth. In the backyard, I see the first places that Kate practiced her walking and the spot on the lawn where I reread most of Grapes of Wrath for my A.P. courses. In the family room is the spot on the floor where I wrote a mourning for the loss of our first pregnancy. I still remember the vision of our living room, dining room, and kitchen filled with well-wishes and gifts when we returned from our honeymoon. Today I removed the books from the bookcase where Bill hid one of his proposal clues. In the shower, I remember all the times I wrote down lesson plan ideas on the steamy glass. In this house, I have been made a tenured teacher, a wife, a department chair, a mother, and so much more... What roles will I next discover at the new house? Will they be as rewarding? Did I really honor the passing of my life here these last five years, or did some days fly by underappreciated? What is the criteria by which we judge how well we have truly lived in a place?

As I packed more today, I approached some items that I knew I probably wouldn't put back up in the new house. They were important to me when I moved here at age 24 and wanted them displayed, but some of my possessions don't exactly feel like me anymore, or they hail from such a long long time ago that I am not sure what defining power they truly retain. This, too, made me pause: if possessions can be a barometer of how much we have changed, might it be beneficial to have a "moving of the soul" every few years? If we invest any one item with too much sentimentality, does that ever prevent us from redefining ourselves freely?

All that I truly love is contained within Bill and Kate. I think that is why I haven't yet cried over leaving this house. I know that, at bottom, home is truly where they are. I only approach sadness when I think that, by leaving this place where we all have been, perhaps I will cause my memories to fade faster than they otherwise would. Will I remember walking over the "yellow bumpies" on the way to the nearby park with Kate, and the way she loved to be set free from her stroller to run either toward the swings or toward the sandbox? Will I remember how utterly enchanted I was that second summer with the frogs that would pop up on the glass slider? Will I remember my sunflower and morning glories? Will I remember the years of Saturday Dinners?

So when I leave my home for a new one this weekend, I know I will be wondering if I will be able to hold onto five years worth of memories in the same way these walls have sheltered and contained us. What are we really leaving behind? And will we miss it when we discover what it is that we have left?