In recent days, I have become a professional at packing, taping, and stacking boxes. I had been feeling really smug about my packing efficiency quotient (PEQ), but then I started packing up the kitchen. Dishes are a real pain, you guys. All the wrapping. And pots are no picnic either, mostly because of the handles. They’re so pointy and poke-y and unbendable.
It’s been hard, too, to pack with the kids around, so most of the packing has been taking place at night. Except when Benjamin got out a suitcase one busy morning last week and started stuffing his clothes into it.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Packing up my clothes so we can move to the new house, Mama!”
“Good job! Except we don’t need to pack up your clothes yet, because we’re not going for another week or so.”
“But I’m so excited to live there!”
“Me too, sweetie!”
“But…Mama? I think our old house is going to really miss us.”
“So you think that the house has feelings like we do, and it will feel sad when we’re not here anymore?”
“Yeah. I think it’s going to feel really, really sad.”
I know what he means. I was going to explain to him that houses aren’t living things with feelings, but I didn’t. Because when I was a little girl, I felt exactly the same way. I remember riding in the back of my parents’ car as they drove it to the dealership to trade it in, lying on the seat, tightly hugging the upholstery (this was, of course, before seat belt laws). As though I was bidding farewell to a dear loved one, tears streamed down my cheeks as I whispered, “We loved you, car. Thank you, car. I’ll miss you, car. You were a good, good car.”
Such a little drama queen! Now we know where Ellie gets it.
Anyway, I told him that story, and I added that even though I was sad to leave our old car, we got a nice new car that was great, and that the old car ended up taking care of another family. I said that our house was going to take care of some new people, too.
“So the house won’t be lonely,” I said, “because there will be new people here to keep it company. Does that make you feel better?”
“No, it doesn’t. Because it will still miss us.”
Again, I couldn’t argue, even though I’m a “grown-up” now and should “know better.” Sure, I could’ve explained that he was simply projecting his own feelings on the house as a convenient way to avoid difficult emotions, blah blah blah. But he’s five, and also, I’m not entirely convinced myself that the house won’t miss us.
So I said that we could do things like drive by the house and wave, and open the window and yell, ”I miss you, house!” I said we could talk about the house any time, and that he could have some pictures of the house in his new room.
“Really? That would be great!” he said. “Then I won’t forget how it was here.”
I won’t forget how it was here, either. I won’t forget moving in with The Daddy, youthful and childless, thrilled to start a new life with a garage AND space for a guest room and home office. The elaborate Christmas Eve dinners I tried to cook in my miniscule kitchen to impress my new in-laws. Laughing on the big back deck with my girlfriends. Renovating the bedroom 7 months pregnant. Kissing my newborns’ cheeks in the big chair in the family room. Avoiding the squeaky floorboard in the nursery in the middle of the night. The way I felt instantly comforted, walking through the door after a long day.
What Benjamin will eventually understand is that those feelings and memories have almost nothing to do with the house. Someday, maybe very soon, he’ll understand that home is wherever we all are – wherever we’re laughing, singing, playing, squabbling, cooking, sleeping, dreaming.
Regardless: We loved you, house. Thank you, house. We’ll miss you, house. You were a good, good house.