My childhood home, the one my father and my mother purchased years ago to raise my brother and me, is now officially closed. Gone is the furniture, gone are the worn-out bicycles, gone are the old newspaper clippings saved for a long forgotten reason. Hollow rooms now echo with the slightest of footsteps.
As adults we all expect to grow up, move away, and build a new life, a new family. But one day we need to come home – one final time. The closing of a home is remarkably different than that of closing a house. A home is filled with vivid memories. Each dent or scratch tells a story of a moment long lost in the daily rush of life. Even a single nail hanging on a living room wall serves as a reminder of lifetime now passed.
My brother and I grew up in a modest home in the modest suburbs of a modest Mid-western city. And our family lived an equally modest lifestyle. Nothing fancy, nothing noteworthy.
But the unwinding of the home as an adult opens doors and windows to memories created beneath the surface by our parents.
“I’ll be home on Friday,” said one note from my dad to my mother when traveling. “Give the boys a hug and I’ll give you big kiss when I get home. I miss you dearly.”
Another postcard, written to me by my dad as a young boy, boasts of how the local baseball team is doing.
“We’ll have to catch a game soon when I get back home,” he wrote.
Another envelope reveals letters of testimony from my uncle requesting the permission for my mother to immigrate to the United States. Letters of character from his employer, a local banker, and local VFW contributed my mother’s immigration possible. The letter is dated signed and dated 1952.
“I can personally assure you,” he wrote, “she will never be a liability or financial burden on the citizens of the United States.”
In another drawer unveils a tarnished golden watch. With a mesh link band, my dad purchased it while a soldier in Japan right after World War II. Paying one-third, or $30, of his monthly military salary at the time, the watch still keeps good time after and careful quick winding.
I guess what I’m discovering is life is not contained in things, but rather the stories attached to them. Where once sat a box of miscellaneous papers, powerful and personal stories begin to reveal themselves. Things are just things at the end of the day. Nothing I ran across over my week of carefully reading and sorting would ever turn a dime on an auction site. But to me, their value and the stories they reveal are priceless. And to qualify that well-used phrase, priceless means exactly that – I wouldn’t give up my mother’s citizenship papers for anything.
We’re done. The home is now just a house. My heart, however, is filled with brand-new memories I will carry forever with me.