We are moving in a month and my feelings are on a seesaw. As much as I’m anxious to set up in our new home, I feel like a shadow is chasing me. Unwelcome thoughts of loss poking into the edges of my mind. A baby blanket draped over the banister turned, out of the corner of my eye, into a child standing with bare legs. When I looked again, there was nothing but shadow. I feel like I am losing someone, and I realized that I am: this house.
It always surprises me how human inanimate objects can become to us — well, to me. Just like a friend or family member, this house has a personality. It is much more than just a backdrop to our memories, it has become a silent partner in many of those memories. How many times has someone told you a story about someone, only to have the surrounding architecture play a pivotal role in the outcome? And just like any family member, I’m blind to some of its worst faults, I make excuses for its bad design and location, but a minor quirk will drive me nuts and lead to complain constantly about it to my friends (the poor choice of tile colour comes to mind here.)
Did I miss my last house — our first house — this much? The answer was always no, until I was scanning some old photos and I realized that I don’t miss it because part of me has never left. I just haven’t been there for a long while. I know it’s irrational, but I’m sure that the kitchen’s still yellow, and the curtains and rod we bought on sale right after we married are still hanging in the basement, and all our pictures are still on the walls. If I walked in and found it all changed, I think I would faint!
The landscape of the man made world is just as real as a physical landscape but so much less reliable. I can recognize peaks of mountains we’ve hiked by in 100 year old photographs, but I don’t even know if our second floor Vancouver apartment is still standing. What happened to the tiny oven, the green bathroom, the double closets in the living room? Are the anchors of my memories hanging in the breeze 12 feet up? Stuck between two floors in a new upscale condo? Or are they still there growing more decrepit with each passing year?
I said good-bye to the physical shell of this house while cleaning and polishing before the first buyers walked through. But our home was much more than just a building. It became it’s own emotion, almost like a member of the family who was always there, and part of everything that happened — good, bad and mundane. And it’s that part that I am having trouble parting with. I suppose it will always live on inside my memories and pictures, and through stories that start “Remember when…” And it will have a new job to play in the lives of the family that will soon, well, call it home.