It's challenging to start this post, it's a hard one for me, so bear with me...I am sure I will have to pause often as I write to wipe away tears as I reminisce on what once was.
At the beginning of this month, I had to let go of a piece of myself. Actually, more than a piece, a chunk. A big chunk. I was forced to close the doors on a part of my life that I would give anything to have back—even if it was just for one day. As we get older, we let go of our childhood in many ways, but this part of my childhood was really difficult to part with, and as I type this, I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes. Earlier this month, my family and I, had to say goodbye to my grandparents' home.
I realize that this may not sound like a devastating thing to all people. I know that not every child has this hard of a time saying goodbye to their grandparents' home, albeit sad. However, this home held so much more than my amazing, supportive, beautiful grandparents. This home held unconditional love. This home held strong traditions. This home held laughter and joy. This home held not only my childhood but my father's and his siblings. Generations of sleepless babies, wandering toddlers, mischievous kids, and teens. Years of struggle and gains. Home improvements, difficult decisions, moments of fear and worry. Decades of lemonade on the porch and Bahama mamas on the grill. Underdogs on the homemade swing that reached all the way up to the lowest branch of the tallest tree. Impromptu harmonica and ukulele concerts, with beautiful renditions of "over the rainbow" and "rainbow connection."
Between these walls, so many memories were made and so many lessons were learned. I imagine my father playing pranks on my aunt and playing catch with my uncle when they were just little kids. I see a group of guys—friends of my dad who he is still close to today, parking their bikes in the driveway asking if my dad can play. I can almost see my mother and father standing in the living room getting ready to go out on a date when they were teenagers, confirming what time they would be home and telling my grandma not to worry. If I close my eyes, I can almost hear the sound of my grandmother lovingly arguing with my grandfather, bickering about household chores. These, of course, are things I imagine when I think about what it may have been like for my father growing up in that house. The house that my grandfather remodeled and built with his own two hands. The house that my father was raised in and always had to "come home to" until he was 71 years old.
In 1978, they welcomed their first grandchild into this magical house. My sister—the oldest grandchild and therefore, I know, had a very special place in their hearts. I was the 3rd grandchild, but the amazing thing about these two very special people was that they made each and every one of their 9 grandchildren feel special in their own way. I guarantee that if you asked, my cousins and siblings would each have a unique important story of a time that my grandparents made them feel safe, special, important, and exceptional.
In 2009, they welcomed their first great-grandchild into the safe haven of those sturdy walls. My daughter, who I remember taking there often as a baby and toddler to snuggle with my grandmother and dance to my grandfather's harmonica and ukulele. Within the next few years, there were 3 more great-grandchildren who got to enjoy this timeless home. Now, there is a 4th and a 5th on the way. I know that their mothers will pass along the stories of the house on Wickliffe with great pride and genuine love. They will paint pictures of the immaculate Christmas celebrations, explaining the process of the day with fondness and pure joy. The small french doors that led into the family room remained shut until everyone had arrived and put their gifts out. When we finally got the "okay" to open the doors, the feeling of excitement and anticipation was rival to that of a massive drop on a towering rollercoaster. Presents stretched from wall to wall, unable to fit under the stunning live Christmas tree that was framed by the large bay window. We would find our pile of packages and wait patiently for the word, then we would dig in like uncontrollable animals.
I spent many days on the couch watching "Golden Girls, Empty Nest, Jeopardy, and Wheel of Fortune" by my grandparent's side. I could always count on dinner, a big bowl of popcorn, and (much to my grandmother's dismay) an ice cream sundae with my grandpa. I spent many nights on the pullout couch or in the twin bed with the butterflies above the headboard, having sleepovers just because I could—and I wanted to. This structure provided so much safety and comfort for me all through my childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood. Saying goodbye, felt like too much.
We decided to get together before the new owners took possession. We brought folding chairs, beverages, games, and a Bluetooth speaker and did our version of "goodbye." We laughed as my aunt auctioned off the last random items that weren't claimed when they were going through the house. We watched the kids play games, throw the lacrosse ball, and put on plays at the "castle playground" across the street that we too, as kids played at. We ordered Tommy's pizza as it was my grandfather's favorite and toasted to the life they had and the life they provided to all of us. My cousin made sure to bring fig newtons, the treat that could always be found in the drawer by the refrigerator when we were growing up.
When the night came to a close, my stomach tied up in Knots knowing that this was the last time I would stand in the safety of my grandparent's home. The last time I would smell the smell of the wood paneling. The last time I would see the wallpaper that covered the kitchen and bathrooms. The last time I would walk the hallway that held what felt like my entire life between its walls. As I walked into the house, I was saddened immediately to see it so empty. Where was the couch? Where were the beds? Where was the kitchen table we sat around so many times? My heart dropped further with each room I stepped into. I found my sister at the end of my walk, sitting in the middle of my grandparent's bedroom, with a heartbroken look on her face. We held one another and did our best to accept the fate that awaits the house we knew as part of our childhood. We sat there too long, and eventually, our children came to find us. With one look, they knew we were sad, and we ended up having a pile of people sitting on the floor, hugging and taking in that moment. My son claimed, "In ten years, I am buying this house back!" And "I am not leaving, we are not leaving!" His attempts at making us feel better helped, but we still knew we had to say goodbye. So, we did. We said goodbye and felt the immense pressure of all the memories weighing down on us as we walked out through the threshold.
My one and only wish are that the next people who live between those walls have the same feeling we did every time we walked through the door. I hope it brings joy and comfort to whoever possesses the space. It is so special and I miss it so much already.