Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Things That Are Lost

Maybe it's just me, but I always had the thought that your parents are somehow supposed to be the repository for our memories, and our life. The HOME is somehow supposed to serve as a time capsule for your childhood- the knick knacks will always sit on the shelf, the photo albums will always be there to flip through, the combined history of your life is safely held in the sphere of your parents' home. That somehow all of these things combined serve as the foundation for your life.

So, it was with great surprise that I arrived home in NC to hear Dad say that with selling the house, and him moving e that he did not want any of Mom's stuff. Suddenly just tidying up the house to put on the market became a lot more. It became frantically going through everything in the house that was Mom's, and packing, again frantically trying to safeguard all of Mom's things- the books I wanted, the knick knacks, the keepsakes, the papers.

It was not how I thought I'd be spending my vacation.

And now, with my departure back to Albuquerque counted in hours, not days, I'm not sure how to feel. I know I'm haunted that I've missed something. That I've left behind something whose loss I will only feel once I realize it's truly and absolutely gone. We lost so much when Mom died- years of stories, a touchstone to our pasts, our heart. I worry that now we will lose so much more.
We will lose the connection to our past. The items passed down through generations. The history of our family. The stories of those who came before.
These linens were my grandmother's, part of her wedding trousseau. The care, the detail of the embroidery. They are gorgeous. We saved what we could. But we've lost the stories behind them.
It's not just the items we've lost, or don't have room for (my sister has a tiny apartment in NYC, and my living situation is fluid with my PhD), it's the memories and stories that go with these items.

Part of me too worries about what life after this house will mean.
Part of me can't help but think that if Dad doesn't want anything of Mom's, does that include us? We're hers after all, he has begun to introduce us as his "step-daughters" when he never did before. If he doesn't want any of the pictures, or her stuff, and was emphatic that we clear out albums and keepsakes that are "yours, not mine" then is this a step away from him not wanting us? Is it inevitable that after Mom's death life just becomes a running list of things we've lost?

I don't know.

It's been almost three years since Mom died. And rarely a day goes by when I am not struck dumb by the loss. This Christmas, I struck me again that we had lost the magic of Christmas. We had lost the keeper of traditions. We have lost the person who thinks hanging onto that ugly clay thing made in 3rd grade is worth it and special. We've lost items from Mom's childhood.
I think mostly we've lost our shared history. It's as though Mom's death fractured us. Dad soon after didn't want to talk about it, wished people would stop bringing it up. So we lost the ability to talk about her. In losing that, we began to lose the stories, because we could not share them. Now the physical reminders are separated and shipped off to different parts of the country. The items we've left behind or didn't see will be thrown out. When I have a permanent home again I will treasure the items I've saved and revel in being surrounded by the memories and history. But it seems like a mirror has been broken, and the images will forever seem surreal.
This is not as it should be. Mom should still be here to breathe magic into the holidays. Always ecstatic to have us home for the holidays. She should be here to continue to collect the cards, the letters, the mementos of our lives, even as we continue to grow. To tell us the stories, to keep us together.

I am terrified that as I drive my truck, packed to the gills with memories, across country that I will mentally compile the list of items we should have saved, that I should have somehow found room for. That in the coming years, I will only realize the things that are lost forever when I go to look for them and cannot find them.
How precarious is your future if the past, the foundation, has eroded beneath you?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Goodnight Home

Part of my To Do list while I was home in NC this holiday season was to prep the house to put on the market. It's not what I want to do. It's not even in the top ten, but Plan A- rent downstairs to nice, stable, employed people blew up in my face. They paid October rent two weeks late. Never paid November's rent, and moved out 11 December, leaving items behind, having not paid any of December's (or November's) rent, painted the entire downstairs without permission, and have been dodging my calls, preferring to deal with Dad because he's "nice". I started vacation going to court to formally evict them. They didn't show, so while I got my property back, I don't get any money. And let me tell you, I'm all for people having protection so they can't be evicted without cause, but I find it ridiculous that someone who is employed full time cannot be punished, or made to pay back rent.
But walking downstairs to inspect what they'd done/left, it struck me that this was officially no longer my house.
I did not recognize it. It struck me how easily our mark upon the world can be erased.

As I walked around the house with the broker to add to my To Do list, it's hard not to feel sad. I bought this house for Mom, thinking it would be a permanent home. Everything I did with it was a set of tiny steps in the grand plan for how I wanted to make it. As I let Nehi out into the yard this morning, all I could see was all the work I had poured into it.
To me, the garden, or the yard is the heart of a home. It becomes the visible proof of what you create in a home. My yard was a sandpit when I first bought the house. The fence went up when Nehi came. The rain garden came after I realized the yard flooded on that side. The eucalyptus tree I planted in memory of Mom. The cherry tree, peach tree, and flowering pear were planted because I love the spring blossoms. The lantana is everywhere. I built the herb wall garden. Each plant is a memory of time digging in the dirt, with Nehi lazing in the sun.

As I look around the house, I also see Mom. All her knick knacks, pictures, stuff. Dad doesn't want most of it anymore, so I'll be packing all these things and driving them back to Albuquerque with me. Once we sell the house, Dad will move into a smaller place, one where the mortgage is more manageable. And once the house is sold, my last tangible connection to my Mom will be gone.  This was the last place she was. It's where she died. And once Dad moved into his new place, that place will not be home so much as his place.

I will also visit Dad as much as my schedule allows. But my home now is wherever my academics or work takes me. Perhaps the future will allow me the luxury of once again owning a home, and making it my own. And I'm fine with that. Part of my marketability is that I'm willing to pick up everything and move for a job. But I know as I drive away, I will be saying goodbye to many things.