A goodbye letter to my childhood home

This post was written as part of the monthly ChicagoNow Blogapalooza challenge. Blogger are given a topic and 9 PM and have one hour to write. Post due at 10 PM. Topic? Write a love letter to something, not a person, a thing. This is what I ripped out in an hour.

Dear Old House,

Tomorrow I’m saying goodbye to you for the last time.

Sure, we’ve parted ways before, but it was only temporary. We said goodbyes when I went to sleepovers, sleepaway camp, and week long vacations with the family. I ached for your smells and feels when I was away at college. Knowing you were still there for me was comforting and I counted the days until I’d be with you again. And of course, when I got married and moved into a new home with the family I made for myself with Eric, I knew you weren’t mine anymore, yet in some way, you still were, because my beloved people and pets were still with you.

Oh, but this time it’s different.

This is goodbye forever.

When I walked in and out of your empty, neutral colored rooms yesterday, I still felt comforted by the sense of home. How can that be when there are no longer any of my people or things there? Ugh, and the color and smell is wrong! Still, I felt safe with you. I ran my fingers over some of your surface and asked you to remember with me.

Like how the night grandpa died and dad's sobs penetrated your thin walls, I huddled alone in my closet hideout, yearning to be the little girl who squirreled away the coins grandpa gave me each time we were together in my treasure box. It was terrifying at first, hearing dad cry, but then I though about how the entire neighborhood would probably hear me wailing if I’d lost him, and that made it okay. The walls may have separated us physically, but that was the day I came to really know him. That was the day he became human to me.

Eric says that I’m overly sentimental about saying goodbye to you, despite the fact that my sentimentality is one of the things he loves most about me. He claims to dig it when I save random trinkets that mark moments in time and overthink every damn thing and grab onto the people I love for dear life, making sure they know how much I love and appreciate their presence in my life. He just doesn’t get why it’s so hard for me to let you go.

So I explained that you were my first love.

I told him about how even years after we had a home and a little boy of our own, that I still felt like I lived in a stranger’s place, that home was somewhere else. We moved so much, it was hard to connect to the four walls and roof where we were living, often for such a short time. I told him that the most consistent thing in my life, even up until the very moment we were talking, was that I had a sense of feeling protected and stable just knowing that the only home that I remember, the home where all my milestones were met and memories were made was open to me, just in case I lost my sense of self, I could go home and feel grounded.

To me, the essence of love is unconditional tolerance and acceptance and availability. That’s what you have always been to me. Last fall, when mom’s dementia and emphysema got so that she couldn’t safely stay with you, we began our long goodbye.

The hours I spent with you, rummaging through your closets and cabinets, sorting and saving and savoring all the tangible things that represented moments in the lives of so many of my loved ones were precious to me. There were days when I didn’t feel too sad and thought I was ready to let go, but then a memory would draw me back into you, reminding me of how you always found a way to make me feel like everything was going to be okay.

I drew on you and kicked you and slopped all over you. So often, I couldn’t wait to get away from you! But I was always so relieved and grateful to come back to you. I cherish the sacred space you made and held for me.

This is it, old friend. Our time together is through and I’m feeling such a sense of absurd, immature angst. The thing is, when we part for good, even though I’m a forty four year old woman living in a house not even 20 miles away from you, I have never felt protected here the way I always feel when I am in you. You have always been the ultimate safety net, the link to my childhood, the time in my life where I was sheltered and valued and infinite.

That time has passed. I’m on my own now. There is nobody I can tell the secrets that you know, nobody I really want to tell. I know you will keep them safe, that you won’t forget me, that you loved me.

I just wanted to make sure you know how much I loved you too, how much I love that you loved all my special people. Thank you for giving all of us a place to connect and meet in the middle for all these years. Thank you for holding me and growing me and being my most trusted and reliable friend for 37 years. I will love you forever.

Nikki

Cate at window

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