They say, “You can’t go home again.” ‘They’ in this case, being Thomas Wolfe (I had to Google that).
I didn’t feel that way. I loved going home. Especially in those after-college years, when I was furiously working, moving from state to state - and felt anything but settled. Going home felt like a respite from a fast moving life bursting with uncertainties. At home everything was familiar and comfortingly complacent. Inhale the scent of the house you grew up in, exhale anxiety from the foreign world that is your real life. At home, they’ve known you since back in the day and love you anyway. You feel right in your own skin. Your mom’s here. The carpet is softer, the towels fluffier, the linens smell good, and the garage smells musty. There is still that one blanket. Things that have gone a bit shabby seem sweet.
I grew up in a modest and just fine 70’s ranch house in a suburb of Dallas. My brother, sister and I spent most of our formative years here. Decades later, with everyone long gone from the nest, my mother began to find caring for and maintaining a big house overwhelming. The decision was made that my husband and I would move from Saint Louis back to Dallas to help out. So with my mom happily ensconced in a small patio home, my husband Dave and I, in our 40’s, took up residence in my humble and beloved childhood home.
Which can be weird.
There was a lot to do to make this home ‘ours’ instead of ‘mine’ with plenty of different perspectives, adjustments, compromise and the occasional hurt feelings along the way.
In the back yard, I see the pool that was the site of a million summer days and nights. ‘Laying out’ on a mirrored sheet (remember that?) covered in oil with my bestie. There’s that part of the roof you can get to from the fence that some brave boy would always climb up to and splash in at a baseball or soccer team party. There’s the ‘kissing corner’ – a precious area I discovered during my teens where no one can spot you from the back windows. But what Dave sees is insurance liability from a relic slide and diving board and the ridiculousness of that patch of green grass that you have to hump the mower down stairs to get to.
You get used to how things are ‘done’ in a family house. Dave smiles and rolls his eyes when I revert to phrases like ‘not allowed to!’ and ‘in big trouble!’ regarding house rules that are no longer applicable. It’s like the where-do-you- keep-the-peanut-butter discussion on steroids. My mother re-decorated the house in the glorious mauve and teal of the mid-80’s. I was shocked when Dave wanted to peel off the fabulous mirrored wall in the dining room, but in agreement that pure white carpet was not pet- or me-friendly (I spill). And my mother simply couldn’t believe it; she kept insisting she ‘just’ put that in. Meanwhile my husband has the gall to call our long-time neighbor by his first name; a grown-up! This grumpy man has been in his seventies since I was ten years old and terrified of him. No way can I shake the ‘Mister.’
We are making progress in making the home our own, little by little. Just last week, I told my sister to either come get her pom-poms out of the attic, or I was throwing them away. I no longer refer to ‘my brother’s room’ or ‘the yellow bathroom’ and stop myself from saying, ‘Dad says...’ more often than not.
And while it can be hard to close the door on the past – sometimes we must. After all, we’re not paying to air condition the whole neighborhood!