Hi, friends —
Around the time my father died, I started having dreams about cleaning out my childhood bedroom. The house I grew up in was a bit of a tumbledown wreck — think: ceiling leaks every spring as the snow melted off, a staircase where each step had a different height, not a single right angle to be found in the whole place — but it was also a mess, and my room was probably the worst of it. I never did get to clean it out in real life. The ceiling of my bedroom eventually collapsed (thankfully while I was away at college, not sleeping underneath it). A lot of my childhood junk was destroyed, and the rest of it packed into boxes which ended up … somewhere. I haven’t seen them since, to be honest. My parents moved to a smaller, more stable house a few months later.
But I don’t think I’m dreaming about that.
Dad died right after Thanksgiving in 2017. My mother died four years before that. All of the grief is as intense as you can probably imagine, if you haven’t experienced it yourself. But there’s another aspect to it, too. Not having any parents is weird. One of my cousins described the feeling as “unmoored,” which seems apt — the people who were the anchors in my life are gone, so I drift. (My mom would have loved the boating metaphor.)
Their house — the second house, which, thankfully is still standing — passed to one of my nephews. Quite rightly, since he was my father’s caretaker in the last few months of his life, and also quite rightly because he likes the house, and wants it, and wants to stay in that town. None of which were the case for me. So please believe me when I tell you, when I dream about cleaning out my childhood bedroom, it’s not because I miss the place, or wish I had my parents’ house.
But I am unmoored. My whole concept of “home” eroded, not because of the loss of a place, but because of the people.
In directly related news: my sister and I are buying an apartment.We’re set to close next week.
We’ve both wanted to for a long time, but it really didn’t seem like it was in the cards. Property in New York is ludicrously expensive, not to mention in high demand. It’s largely a city of renters, which is what we’ve both been for as long as we’ve been here, and that’s fine! It is, in fact, much cheaper than buying, but here we are.
Within the last year, we got serious about buying a place. Well. Mostly I did, initially, in that I’m the one who began stalking real estate listings. Who started doing math on what we could afford. Who researched the buying process. Who did more math, trying to make the numbers come out differently. Then we found a dream apartment and Rachel got serious too, and though that place fell through, we found another that we love, and in December we made an offer.
Look. I can’t go back to my childhood home, because it doesn’t exist any more in the form I would go back to. My subconscious, which has never been particularly subtle, sends me images of cleaning it out, trying to move on, but the pile of stuff I have to sift through never gets any smaller. There’s no end to it, and I’ll be cleaning it out forever. But we’re building a home, a permanent place compared to the transience of renting. It doesn’t bring back what we’ve lost. A home can never bring back people. But it’s throwing ropes at a dock, tying ourselves to a new shelter.
…okay, that was all pretty sad! So here is a more fun family anecdote to go out on. My mother would have liked the boating metaphor because she grew up with sailboats. Her parents were lucky enough to own a few boats through the years. My grandfather was a lawyer, so he named their first boat Veritas.
And he named its dinghy Veritassle.
Hi, friends —