In my twenties I moved around tons of times. Yes, tons. From the East coast to the West coast and back again, from the bottom of Florida to the hills of New York, and from mid-west Michigan to northeast Vermont. Each move I packed up the bare essentials and gave away the rest. Possessions came and went. Each move was fueled by adventure and possibility far greater than material goods and I never looked back.
Then came my thirties when I found myself taking root in a rural village where children were born, gardens were tended, and the seasons rippled away. As our older relatives downsized we were gifted their heirlooms and furniture quickly accumulated in that small farmhouse. These possessions were welcome, as well as the memories woven into their upholstery. Our children too accumulated shiny awards and crafted treasures. Within a short decade the small farmhouse in the rural village burgeoned into a busy hive of people coming and going, expanding their interests from basketball hoops to music stands to art supplies, expanding their desires from a gerbil to a bunny to a kitten to fish; daily we kept adding until there wasn’t any space left in that small farmhouse, and soon life demanded we move again, this time to a grand house on the hill.
Despite relocating to a grand new house, for the first time, I found moving emotional because this was where our kids had romped and grown, had brought home first loves and sad news, had dreamed their dreams. Packing up their lives felt far more precious than mine ever did, and hard decisions were made. What would get discarded? What would get boxed up? What would move into their future worlds beyond mine? But since we were moving into a grand house we felt we could bring just about everything. Or close to it. So only some of those questions were answered and we filled the biggest van.
On the last day, after the U-haul days, I wandered around the empty farmhouse, still hearing their voices, still seeing their faces, all the many moments of time trapped within those walls and the surrounding village. It was a hard door to close, but I reminded myself, we were headed into an adventure, so I stepped out with an enthusiasm stronger than tears.
Funny part was we could have fit the whole farmhouse inside this grand one and we almost did. Within hours the basement was a sea of boxes stored for later decisions while upstairs our meager possessions looked, well, meager. However, more pressing than furniture were the three floors with many rooms needing attention. We planned through the months of spring and worked through the heat of summer. We stripped wall-paper and painted walls. We ripped-up carpet and laid flooring, We brought grace and elegance back to the 1860 stately mansion and never begrudged a moment of our labor. The grand dame deserved all the glitter we could restore to her.
Furniture was bought, couches and end tables and sideboards and beds, plates and bowls for twenty and extra flutes for toasting, and all along the way we thought of the holidays and the faces of those we love standing in the threshold, breathing in the charm. Their delight fueled us to consider every vase and lamp placement, the fabric of the sofa and the down of the comforter. Slowly we made the grand house into a home and over the ensuing years we celebrated on a large scale.
Children, capped and gowned, ventured out and away, and, as we all do when leaving home, they left behind their dusty treasure: baseball cards and summer photographs, elementary school projects and high school trophies, bats and balls and hats and coats, drawers filled with sports jerseys and love letters. And, as we were the one with the big house, we received more heirlooms; boxes stuffed with stuff discarded from someone’s life now entrusted to us. This swelling continued until this grand house felt full and the basement and closets began to groan each time something was added.
Here would be a good place to pause and read a Robert Frost poem. Something about time passing on the green fields now spotted with snow; some metaphor for the cycle of life, for as nature reminds us, seasons change and life moves on, because our days in the grand house are at an end. Yes, we are moving on to our next chapter!
But the undoing of such a home is not easy. There are pages and pages of memory, even beyond our own, to let go of now. We must face all that we brought here, and all that we created. We must untangle the part of us that will move on from what we will discard.
Moving on demands we do just that, and so, we will close this door as we did the one before, stepping forward less encumbered than when we arrived and much like our younger selves, we will let the next adventure pull us onward without a tear.