Monday, April 3, 2017

Saying goodbye to my childhood home

As I walked out the door a final time, I tried to recall my earliest memories from my childhood home. Nothing really came to me. 

I was only 5 years old when my family moved in, so my sketchy recollection is to be expected. Moving day is probably one of those shiny memories of my childhood that is covered in a muck of outdated passwords, old locker combinations and things like “negative b plus or minus radical b squared minus 4ac all over 2a.”

That’s the quadratic formula. It has really come in handy over the years.

The front yard. We once had a massive slip-and-slide
out there that attracted kids from all over, and I'm not
sure the grass ever recovered.
Whatever the reason, I don’t remember a lot about my first few years at the house. But at least my last few days there are fresh memories. They’re from a few weeks ago, when I flew to Arizona to get a final look at the old digs and help my parents move into a retirement community.

My parents don’t seem to fit into an official “older, active lifestyle” setting, but my perspective is undoubtedly skewed by my own resistance to aging. My parents started a family a little later than most, but not long ago my dad was following his grandsons around the park, crawling through tunnels and going down slides.
 
“I may look 60,” my dad reminded me recently, “but I’m actually 80.” 

And so modest, obviously.

If my parents had kids who lived nearby, they might not be moving. But Mom and Dad are in the Phoenix area, while I’m in Texas, my younger brother is in Oregon and my older sister is in Massachusetts. We all get along, despite the appearance that our hometowns were dictated by a 2,000-mile restraining order. Life just took us in different directions.

As for directions back to the house, I didn’t need any. Even after living in Texas for 17 years, I’ve got the muscle memory to navigate through my old neighborhood. And when I pulled up to my parents’ house, only the “for sale” sign looked out of place. 

The backyard. The pool was probably too large
for the small area, but we swam in there
almost every day from April to October.
Inside, most of the furniture was gone, but the ranch-style house felt the same. I walked through the entryway and into the family room/dining room, which now has Spanish tile floors but was originally adorned with the rage of the Seventies: shag carpeting.

Glorious, hideous, gold shag carpeting.
 
“Then we changed to kind of a tan carpeting,” my mom said, “because no one wanted to rake the shag.”

That’s right, we had to rake the carpet. We’d find pennies, marbles, pieces to board games, rubber bands, all kinds of stuff. It was a time when wall-to-wall carpet was considered groovy, and we even had it in the bathrooms.

“Can you imagine shag carpeting in the bathrooms with two little boys?” my mom asked.

No, I can’t, and neither can my three sons. But their biggest surprise, when they visited the house a few years ago, was that I didn’t have my own bedroom.

I had to share with my brother, and it led to a lot of fun. And fights. And a doorknob getting smashed through a wall.

I walked into that bedroom we shared, turned to my right, and bingo, there was the patch job. I don’t remember exactly what led to the door handle getting impaled in the drywall, but my brother and I had many disagreements and settled some of them with wrestling matches. Our parents also gave us boxing gloves. Things happened.

I walked into my sister’s bedroom, which in the Eighties was decorated in homage to the musical group Duran Duran. I passed by my parents’ bedroom, where I once used the bed as a crash pit for high jumping. And as I went into the family room, I remembered when we roasted marshmallows in the fireplace and singed the carpet.

A trip to the house always raises memories from the muck. But as I walked out the front door a final time, I didn’t get struck with nostalgia. I didn’t have one of those sitcom final-episode moments where a character takes a long soulful look at everything and then turns off the light.

But looking at the “for sale” sign in the yard, I pulled up a hazy memory of another “for sale” sign from nearly 40 years ago. I can’t remember if I was standing by a sign at the house we were selling or the one we were buying, but I remember it felt strange that we were moving to a new home. 

Now it feels strange that another family will be living there. We weren’t the first family at the house, though, and this next one probably won’t be the last. Floors will be changed, rooms will be repainted, more walls will need patch jobs.

This will just be another chapter, and hopefully the pages will turn to more memories too good to be forgotten.
 
Twitter: @wixonhumor

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