Saying Goodbye to a House

Remember the round we used to sing around the Girl Scout campfire? Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold. Can the same thing be said about houses? I mean, most of us can’t keep all the houses we buy (I’ve tried—but three is just too many, and now I’m an anxious intimate of several realtors). And frankly, we can’t keep all our friends either at the same level of activity as we move down the paths and roads of our life journeys. But, the gold friends are the ones we continually invest in, confide in, and chide ourselves over if we haven’t been as attentive as the friendship deserves. The silver friends turn into the threads that make up the quilt of our life experiences. Quilts are recordings of love. I have a quilt that I made of my children’s clothes as they grew out of them. I can run my finger over the blue flowered square and remember the dress I made my daughter to match the Raggedy Ann doll I also crafted for her. I can gaze at the now-faded square of red, white, and blue cotton that were once the pajamas that covered my soft and sweet smelling son after a warm and playful bath. They are dear memories, just like many valued friends who graced my life.

I have photos of the houses I lived in and they evoke sweet and bittersweet memories. My first home was the one to which we brought our first-born. As we laid her in her crib, we looked at each other and asked, “What do we do with her now?” Another home saw the angst and crippling effects of divorce, another dwelling—the independence building of my new single life, and one—the discovery of new love.

But the smallest of all, the Tucson villa we recently lived in, was the hardest to leave. A little pondering on the new larger patio while looking at the grander view of the mountains gave me the opportunity to dig into my heart to figure out why. The little villa was my tutor and mentor to Southwest living. I needed to transform the interior design from the previous owner’s grandma decor to Patti and Tom retirement years in Arizona. I wanted to immerse myself in this different land. I learned about colors of the desert, what was tasteful Southwest and what was kitschy Southwest (cowboy toilet seats). I had a small canvas onto which I could paint as I willed with the colors that spoke to my soul and upon which I could place furniture that wasn’t Midwest Queen Anne. I don’t mean to sound too grand, but as I looked at what I had created, I… “saw that it was good.” Into that creative nest we brought new and old friends; marveled at the coyotes, bobcats, and birds we saw through its windows; and we realized it was too small.

We bought a larger home that spoke to us, but every time I go to the villa to gather things before the final sale (end of March, yea!), I feel like I’m saying goodbye to a special friend. I’ll always remember how I cut my Southwest teeth on that little nest. The new house is marvelous, bigger but not too big, has a yard for gardening (Tom calls it playing in the gravel), and a kitchen that is the best I’ve ever had. Better yet, it’s not a grandma house because most things have been updated and painted, and I’ve only had to change a few things to call it our own. But my role is different in this house, and I’m not sure what it is. Like new friends, a new home is beginning, fresh with possibilities. I’m up for it.

View from new patio

About Patti Albaugh

I grew up in Mount Vernon, Ohio, and graduated from Mount Vernon High School in 1965. I have a Bachelor's Degree from Mount Vernon Nazarene University and a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. I am an Emeritus Professor at Otterbein University. In addition to writing creative nonfiction and fiction, I like bridge, genealogy, gardening, travel and Mah Jjong. I currently live in Tucson, Arizona, with my dog Tonto. I am the proud parent of children Justin and Amy and the proud grandmother (NANA) of granddaughters Katherine and Zoe.
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2 Responses to Saying Goodbye to a House

  1. Bill Muto says:

    Moved by your story of leaving a house you loved. Two (or maybe only one) perspective. I remember when we left ours, when we retired from our stressful jobs to start a trip cross country that would take us to what will be our final resting place: beautiful but backward Arizona.

    After nearly 28 years there, where we raised our three kids, went to church down the street, had many, many good friends, a nice house with a pool and a backyard full of big mature silver maples, we pulled out of the driveway for the last time and I couldn’t get out there fast enough. I looked for the last time at the long driveway that I or the kids shovelled snow from, thinking it’s gotta be tons of it over the years, the big grassy front yard that needed lots of attention and lots of money to keep green like the Jones’s next door, the huge messy trees that in 28 years, spewed billions of leaves that required raking and raking again and again every fall. I was thinking of the pool the kids loved and would stay in till their fingers got wrinkly. They took care of it till they developed other interests. Then finally, little by little, they abandoned it as if it never existed, leaving me to be the sole caretaker. The days out of my life, opening and closing that thing during our pitifully short swim season.

    I couldn’t wait to get out of town, to our sunny new house with its clean and exotic landscape (which I later learned was fraudulently misrepresented as “maintenance free”. And as I drove away, looking forward to our new life after work, both at the office and at home I looked over toward Ange expecting to see some sort of glee and excitement in her face but she was crying, more like weeping-quietly. She wept all the way down our old street, remembering i’m sure, about the kids when they were little, in their pajamas, opening presents Christmas morning by the fireplace; the birthdays and raucous parties with our friends, the warm summer nights by the pool, the cozy family dinners during blizzardy winters, and picnics in the backyard at night in the summer.

    We drove toward the highway that would take us west and I remember getting a lump in my throat and choking back some tears of my own.

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