There’s a line from a song that lately has been running through my mind: “Time has a way of making hometowns disappear….”
I’ve seen this be true of towns, but I know nothing will ever make my home disappear.
I’m writing this from the comfort of the house that has been my home since I was 29 years old.
After living with my parents, I lived in college dorm rooms, sorority rooms, apartments, and a duplex, but 830 S. Burnside Ave. is the first and only home I’ve ever owned and lived in.
For over two decades it’s been host to countless family Christmases and overdone Thanksgiving turkeys. It’s been a fearless protector through storms and earthquakes and a warm, welcoming place for family and friends to stay. Its walls are adorned with family photos old and new, and every room holds what feels like a lifetime of memories for me.
It’s been a basketball court, a baseball, and football field and anchor to smoky barbeques that had neighbors wondering if the fire department should be called (more than once). Later it became a venue to M:M Music’s “Drinks on the Deck” and artist performances.
I wasn’t a child in this house, but I grew up here….
Only a few years after my then “wife” and I moved in, I lost one of the most important people in my life, my Gran.
Growing up, Gran had been the best part of my day. She was a cut above the rest, possessing the elegance and grace of a Jackie O, mixed with the wicked humor of an Ethel Kennedy. She lied about her age, cheated at cards, never let my siblings or me win at any game and was a martini purist…gin, dirty, always stirred and just think about the vermouth, please. I sat in my dining room the day she died and cried for hours.
It was in the kitchen where I sat on the counter and wept out of fear over the realization that I could no longer stay in my current work situation and was terrified of what would happen next, including the possibility of losing our home. But with encouragement, love, and support, I was able to choose happiness over security, took the chance and went into business for myself.
I came into one of the best roles of my life in this house, becoming a neighbor to my little sister Amy and her husband Dave when they moved to an apartment just three blocks away. And it was here I became an aunt to their two beautiful kids, Dylan and Molly and held them in my arms for the first time.
Their arrival meant that, for seven wonderful years, there was a whole new scene at Burnside Ave. It became a convenient playground when their parents needed a nap, a place for slumber parties, bedtime stories, debates over just the right spot for the night light, how many drinks of water are too many before bedtime (the answer to that is one), the perfect hiding place for way too much Halloween candy and later, this house became Dylan’s kindergarten after-school destination.
For nine months I walked up to the Cathedral Chapel Elementary school, located less than 200 yards from my front door, to scoop up the kid I call Huckleberry. We played cards in the guest room, I taught him to play chess in the living room, read him Curious George a thousand times and watched cartoons in the den, made paper boats in my office and walked to the nearby pond to sail/sink them.
We did homework in front of the fireplace in the winter months and went on adventures around the neighborhood seeking out and defeating ghosts and goblins in the warmer ones. One of his teachers once asked, “Why does your Auntie call you Huck instead of Dylan?” He didn’t miss a beat and responded with a casual shrug, “It’s cuz she just loves me so much.”
As he and his sister grew, this house became their park for Easter Egg hunts, host to their birthday parties and a magical land of treasure hunts with imaginary planks to walk and the basement to hilariously scream over in faux terror when we told them that trolls lived there.
I don’t know if time will make their memories from 830 Burnside disappear, but I know I’ll never forget.
It was in the upstairs bedroom where I heard the hardest words I had ever heard, “Meg, Dad died last night.” He was my hero, and the man I looked up to more than anyone. I still do. He was admired by everyone lucky enough to know him. It was unexpected and unthinkable. Nothing has felt the same since that day, but the white house with green shutters remained a stoic source of comfort and refuge.
It was here where I got to watch my little brother grow from a semi-wild 19-year-old who stayed with us for a summer, smoking pot in the guest room trying unsuccessfully to air it out by cutting a hole in the window screen (“I swear it’s incense!”) and rollerblading between here and our sister’s place, into a college graduate, a celebrated, respected high school teacher and wonderful husband to his beautiful wife, Jackie.
When Maia and I moved in here, we were in love and, when the Supreme Court made gay unions legal, we got married and dropped the quotes from “wife.”
Sadly, with joy often comes sorrow and years later it was here I learned our 21-year relationship was coming to an end. This home provided a sanctuary for me to heal like no other place in the world could have.
Sometime before that, it was in this house where we saw a commercial featuring a dog running around adorably dragging a roll of toilet paper making a mess, that we decided then and there it was time to expand our family.
We drove to a shelter, rescued an abandoned pup and named him Emmett. He instantly became and remained another love of my life. He was my constant companion for 13 years, and it was in this backyard where Emmett chased squirrels, hugged his favorite humans, stubbornly refused to play fetch, napped in the sun, and where he spent his very last moments on earth. It’s where I cried more tears than I knew a body could hold when we said good-bye to him. But I took comfort that he got to be in the only place he ever knew when he left us, and that the last thing he saw was his forever home.
I always thought this would be my forever home too.
But an unexpected thing happened on the way to forever. Right as I had gotten comfortable and happy being surrounded with just family, friends and my beloved house, I re-found the love of my life, and a very different chapter opened up.
It’s a forever I could never have imagined or dare wish for. And a forever and a love like the one I’ve found with her, should never be made to wait.
So it was in this house that I knew I was going to say goodbye to it.
It will be heartbreaking leaving my sister and brother and their families (it’s cuz I just love them so much), but I’ll be back often to visit and we’ll facetime and text.
It won’t be the same with my house. I’ll be sad the day I pull away for the last time. But while my decision to move didn’t come without a few tears, it wasn’t a choice. Choice is a matter of the head, and my heart has always known best.
If houses can love, this one does. Soon, another family will move in and it will be theirs to make memories in, and laugh and cry and grow. I won’t be coming back.
I found my forever love. I hope my house finds one, too.