Colin and I were talking this week about our plans for moving in together. We have yet to decide on a plan, but we’re debating on staying in my little two bedroom duplex or finding a three bedroom house that would provide all of us with a little bit more room to wiggle (and maybe another bathroom). We talked about how hard it is to find a rental in our school district and Colin felt like we could probably find something kind of cheap to buy and maybe fix it up a bit.
Then, I said something that set forth a conversation that ended with me in girlish sobs.
“I don’t think I want to ever buy a house. I love being able to call the maintenance man. Not having to mow my own grass.”
Colin scoffed, not in a condescending way, just in a pure and genuine, “Really?” kind of way. He told me about how he had dreams about building a life in a home and filling it with memories, much like his childhood. His parents are still in the house that he grew up in… The room that my son sleeps in when we go and visit with them is the room that was Colin’s as a child.
The summer of 1997, I closed the first chapter of my life. The first sixteen years… Prior to that summer, I was a kid and all of my memories were colorful and vivid and so very… late-eighties and early-nineties.
I sat on that stool in Colin’s kitchen and told him about all of these little snippets of memories…
The bush that was next to the back deck stairs, leading down to the brick patio was overgrown. My dad, never a real champion of the landscaping arts, decided to trim this bush. He had some of those cartoonishly large hedge clippers that look like nosehair scissors for giants. And he went at it one Sunday afternoon until there was nothing left but a twisted, leafless stick-bush. I recall actually teasing him, in all my prepubescent comic genius.
We giggled about this, as I wiped away the uncontrollable tears. He stroked my hair as I sat, slumped into his shoulder, totally bewildered as to where this surge of emotion was coming from.
My brother ran away from home once, while we were home being babysat. He packed a bindle with canned food and no can opener, put on a ski mask (it was summer… in Georgia!) and walked up a block into the cul-de-sac and went down the cut-through trail that we used to walk to get to our friend’s neighborhood pool. He came home unharmed but, without fail, we bring it up at every holiday gathering and tease him mercilessly.
And then, the summer of 1997, we moved. I went to church camp for two weeks in one house and when I got home, our house had sold and we were in a new one in one of those manufactured 1990’s neighborhoods where they bulldoze everything and plant little saplings along the sidewalked streets. My dog had been put to sleep after his quality of life went totally downhill. I also got baptized that summer, fully indoctrinated into a flawed religious system.
In my old room, the walls around my posters were smoke-stained from incense and candle burning… I had glow in the dark stars on the popcorn ceiling and a bead curtain hanging in the doorway. Our carpets were worn and brown. In my new house, the walls were white. The ceilings were smooth, the carpets were plush and green. It was a blank slate and it didn’t feel like mine.
I lost my innocence that summer… My childhood ended. I don’t have vivid memories of that neighborhood. My memories in my teenage years circled around high school and varsity sports. It was the end of that chapter.
The next fifteen years would be full of bad choices, mistakes, a failed marriage, a messy divorce, custody battles, mediation in stiffly furnished conference rooms… And then after enough of that garbage, some good things near the end like professional success, finding real love, reconnecting with family and building solid friendships in a community unlike anything I had ever experienced as an adult.
This summer, when Colin and I move in together and later, this fall, when we get married, it’ll be the start of a new chapter… Another fifteen years or so of a life that is incredibly different than the last decade and a half. Fifteen years full of our new family, maybe a couple of babies… Memories of Fourth of July Block Parties and catching fireflies in the dusky summer nights…
And maybe, I’ll be able to wrap my brain around buying a house one day… Maybe the idea won’t seem so foreign once I have someone that I want to make those memories with…