I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel.
I suppose it really didn’t hit me that hard until I walked in one day and the pianos were gone. I never realized just how large — and how empty — that front room was without those two beautiful old grand pianos set just so.
I know I’m starting really more toward the end than the beginning. Let me see if I can give you a better idea.
The gist, of course, is that my mother has sold her house and moved out of
town. For many reasons, it was time. It was bittersweet to be sure, and naturally, I will miss having my mother around town. But it’s not a decision any of us should regret, even though it’s difficult not to.
This is beyond merely a milestone in my family’s life. It’s sort of, no, it is,the end of an era.
The house, built in about 1842, is a gem, and I’ve learned more about architecture, history, and Southern heritage just by sitting on that magnificent front porch than anyone could read in thousands of books.
My mother fell in love with the place the first time she ever stepped into the front hall. It took on a lot of her personality; she took on a lot of its personality as well; for nearly thirty years, the place radiated a hearty, welcoming vibe I really can’t describe.
Put it this way; if there’s any truth to the rumors that accompany most old houses, she’ll probably be haunting the place in a hundred years.
My parents moved into it in 1978; my father died in 1986. That house saw me through my formative years, and many years after.
It’s funny; I didn’t know how my siblings would feel about it. I was just entering my teen years in that house when my siblings were finishing college and starting their adult lives. Yet even though my sisters and my brother never really lived there, indeed, they never lived anywhere for longer than three years at a time until they were adults, they were as emotional over it as I was.
Then again, a river of memories runs down those halls. Laughter peals through the air. Something is always in the refrigerator; the bar is well stocked. And despite the fact that it’s an old historic edifice, it’s comfortable, welcoming. It’s a home, not a museum. My siblings’ children probably had first Christmases in it. And all of us, at one time or another, could and did come back to rest, recharge, and redouble our efforts to handle the world.
I suppose I only thought they did not have the connection I had. It reinforces the idea that home is home, no matter how long you’re there and no matter where it is.
I feel especially for my mom. It’s not just selling this house she fell in love with all those years ago. It’s the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Yet she’s handled it all, the emotional roller coaster ride coupled with the absolutely deviling myriad of details that goes into such an endeavor, with classic grace, aplomb, and competence. She’s really quite my hero these days, and I occasionally feel like singing the bad son blues for not being more patient, understanding, available, and helpful and less glib, flippant, and downright irritable.
My mother, sister, and I spent our last night there A couple of weekends ago, a Saturday night. Went to early church on Sunday. Dove right back into the final push of packing, sorting, labeling, tossing things. I didn’t even realize it was the last night I would spend there until well into Sunday. Then I looked into the music studio again. Empty, save for rolled up carpets and built in bookshelves, which, without all the books, made the room look all the more empty and forlorn.
It’s a pretty interesting punch in the face; one of those surreal little moments when you realize everything is fleeting.
I can never think of that house without hearing mom, or someone, coaxing the most beautiful, mesmerizing, soaring sounds, from those pianos. Even nicer, I can’t think of that house without the tin-ear, clink and dink noises of unpracticed scales and bad piano lessons so bad the old Golden Retriever, normally content to lie under the piano bench, would arise, shake himself out slowly, and with obviously injured dignity and sensibilities stalk out of the room to flop back down somewhere down the hall. Those pianos, for me, are the embodiment of the heart and soul of that house.
The new owners are great folks, family friends, who will undoubtedly love, respect, and nurture the house like our family did. They will bring to the experience their own vision and grace, infuse it with their own personality. I can’t think of anyone more perfect to pick up the torch and forge new traditions there.
Yet the movers took everything out on a Wednesday; the packers did their thing the day before. Closing came around the next day. Papers were signed; tears shed; a toast or two drunk, one last one on that wonderful old front porch.
And just like that, thirty years is done. Chapter finished.
Nothing left to do but turn the page.
Turn The Page
I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel.