Our family went “home” this weekend for Easter. Todd and I are high school sweethearts. Even though we have lived in our community for nearly twenty years, in many ways northern Minnesota is still the place we consider as home. When we go back, we both know the same familiar faces and places.
It was a good weekend. We spent time together with family, shared yummy food, and enjoyed the surprise of a spring snowfall.
Before celebrating Easter, we had an additional purpose for making our trip to the woods of northern Minnesota. My parents are in the process of selling my childhood home. Most of Saturday was spent removing heavy furniture from the place where I grew up.
In the last several years, my parents put considerable effort into updating the house. The upper floor of the split-level home barely resembles the place I remember. Extensive exterior upgrades have happened as well. If I want to really dive back into the memories of my childhood, I have to head to the basement.
I asked my dad last week whether or not he was up to one last game of pool. He bought this table when I was in elementary school. The day after he moved it into the house, he declared that he did not ever intend to relocate it. Even when the house would eventually be sold. Thankfully, the people buying the house from my parents in a couple weeks are happy to comply.
My dad and I spent many hours together in this room when I was a kid. He nailed every board that hangs on the wall. I was often nearby while he worked, riding my bike, playing Barbies, or cooking a buffet on my toy kitchen.
Once the basement was finished, we played a lot of pool together until I grew older and other activities pulled me away from the house more and more often. My brother and I played pool, too. Our game was less traditional, though. I cannot remember the specific name we used, but it was something along the lines of “Move Your Fingers Real Fast or I’ll Smash Them.” My mom despised that game and did her best to prevent it. Thanks to her efforts, both of us still have our hands intact.
My dad completely trounced me in our game of pool this weekend. Some things never change. Afterward, he wanted me to play a song on the piano for him. The piano is not staying behind, but he felt we needed to revisit memories anyway.
When I was a teenager, my parents provided me with a car and gas money. In return, I was expected to ask permission before leaving with said car. My parents were naturally curious where I was going. My dad also wanted to create natural opportunities for me to cough up creative “payments” for the car’s use: impromptu piano concerts. I played one last song in this room: Yesterday, by the Beatles. I played it so much for him in high school that I memorized it.
Once we dispensed with the nostalgia, it was time to get to work. Todd’s dad came to help. My brother and his wife arrived a little while later. All the heavy furniture was removed. The cat and dog were loaded up.
And I walked through the house. One last time. My brother wandered around the basement with me. I made Todd take a picture of us.
I looked in the basement closet where I always hid by myself during tornado warnings. I was convinced it would keep me safe. I stood in the room where Todd and I had our first “date”. We watched TV together that day. Todd drove his ATV over to my house because neither of us had a driver’s license yet.
I smiled at the railing that overlooks the stairs into the basement. My brother and I both have very different recollections of what happened, but on one fateful day back in the ’90s he made the drop from top to bottom. He was uninjured, but I am occasionally reminded that he was nearly maimed. And it was all my fault. Except that it wasn’t.
I wandered around the living room where Abbie took her first steps back in 2003, walking cautiously from one grandmother’s arms to those of the other. This is the same room where my mom nursed me back to health every time I contracted a childhood illness.
I saw the apple trees I helped plant and my old playhouse. I stood in the driveway where I used to wait for the bus. I looked out at the yard and saw the homes of former neighbors. My favorite was an older gentleman who made it his duty to keep an eye on my brother and me as we grew up. He always knew the exact times Todd arrived and departed when I was in high school. And he reported back to my parents.
I thought I might be really sad as I walked out the door for the last time, but instead I was okay. My parents have been preparing to move for a long time, so I made my peace with the change a long time ago. As my mom locked the door behind me, I reassured her that I was fine. She seemed a little skeptical.
Next time I drive by my childhood home, a new family will be living there. They will make their own memories. The children will learn the best ways to have fun. It will no longer be my home. It will be theirs.
But I will smile.