The granite counters are beautiful I grudgingly admit to myself. Their speckled toffee-colored surface exudes soft warmth, filling the kitchen’s high ceilings with sepia reflected light. But I can’t allow myself to like them or to accept the change they represent. They, along with the carpet, paint color, and reset furniture are new additions to the Williamson abode. They are the first creeping tidings of an up and coming doom which lurks in my not-too-distant future.
My parents are selling our house, and I am in denial.
I understand that in the grand scheme of human history, twenty-four years doesn’t even contest as a blip on the timeline, but when the writer of this article is twenty-five, twenty-four years is the entire timeline (the first year of life barely counts).
Twenty-four years and my parents are suddenly eager to vacate the three story, one-hundred-year-old white farmhouse with accompanying thirty acres and faded red horse barn. Sure, not one of their four children lives at home or even within an hour’s drive. Sure, the upkeep of the garden, pastures, and aging home is extensive, overwhelming, and supremely intimidating. But it’s their job to maintain the setting of my brother’s and my childhood adventures! They are the parents, after all. Wasn’t there a contract at our births about taking care of us and our emotional dependencies forever? Isn’t it our right as children to have four walls and a roof to return to—to join in nostalgia and VHS viewings of marching band camp extravaganzas?
I am in no way blowing this out of proportion.
All of a sudden it’s all about them and what they want. Geez.
“What would you think if Mom and I put the house up for sale?”
I didn’t grace this question with enough potential reality to look up from my book.
“Well, you wouldn’t. So, next question.”
This conversation occurred in April. Now, it’s the last week of September. The antique wallpaper came down, cerebrally soothing mint greens have been painted up, and the room stager has visited. This woman waltzed in and manhandled the authority to completely destroy our house.
“That couch has to go. This bookshelf is hideous. How can you even attempt to sell the house with that table in the living room?”
It’s like the devil’s personal assistant has been assigned to construct a living hell inside my home. She shifts each detail to an exact degree that demolishes my childhood memories. With each adjustment of frames on the wall, converting of bedrooms into Zen-meditation sanctuaries, and burning of childhood finger-painting portraits, she snubs us.
She drives away, her falsetto cackle trailing out the window, and leaves me questioning whether I am colorblind or Feng Shui incompetent.
I have slept on the second floor of 6830 West Liberty Road for twenty-four years. I have listened to stairway traffic so extensively that I know which member of the family is coming up the stairs by the first step they take. I am intimately aware of each creak and groan of the house as it settles in the evening. The house and I are the best of friends.
If I had ever needed to sneak out, I had the perfect escape route planned to precise detail. But instead, I had the convenience of walking out the front door after my parents succumbed to slumber at 7:30 p.m. But I always know I could have. I know the location of each Easter basket hiding spot, not because I was clever enough to spot them—hardly. Rather, because my mother eluded all her children, even into their respectable twenties and thirties, with ingenious camouflaging skills.
In my head I know. It’s time for my parents to leave. But that’s the beauty of the heart: sometimes it just won’t accept something that’s true because it resonates on a different level of truth. We aren’t there anymore, the rooms are empty and the hallways are silent. My understanding of the house is never empty because I’m always there when I visit. But for most of the year, it’s just my parents.
The house that I knew doesn’t exist anymore, and it hasn’t for a long time. But in my heart it stays the same, and those twenty-four years have left an impression.
But I know that this house of my memory and my imagination exists in just that. And maybe that memory space is enough. It doesn’t need an actual physical space because it hasn’t really had one for the past seven years. West Liberty Road has been a wireframe for my memories to dance within. That my parents, when they leave, will be able to create new places and new memories and new nostalgia and be down the road from their children and grandchildren is the new truth I must accept.
Still, I’d prefer the house doesn’t sell.
Rebekah (’12) teaches English as a second language at Grand Rapids Community College. She does not drink coffee nor purchase Apple products.