This time last year, my parents and Steve’s (all four of them, vertical and happy) were living in lifelong homes. Moving wasn’t in the conversation. They had lovely homes, beautiful gardens, friends and church and stuff…lots of stuff. Not hoarder-level, but shelves overflowing with gifts from grandchildren, photos, books, art, and in my dad’s case, some quality wind-up toy sushi. But none of our parents lived near their kids and when age and health issues showed up, the conversations shifted. Within a few weeks last fall, both couples decided to move this spring. It has been one of the richest experiences we have had with our families. I know it was harder on our folks, but for Steve and I, it has been rewarding and wonderful (also, it’s now officially done, so there’s that). There’s been a synchronicity in having both move at once, and a chance to apply learning from one to another. For instance, always bring your own toilet paper to the empty new home. Two-for-one moving announcements. You can pay extra to have the moving van arrive on day three rather than day seven. And if you don’t know want to take something, but aren’t ready to toss it, Steve and Kim will find a place for it in their garage.
Steve’s folks left a house his grandfather built in Redwood City, when his mother was ten, for a retirement community in San Diego, near his sister, Sue. During our sorting and packing weekends last fall, we poured through generations worth of handcrafts and tools, photos and cookware…every single piece with a story. We found letters and gloves and carved wooden rolling pins. We made time for the history. The house sold quickly to a young couple who will have a family of their own there, which made Vince and Adeline happy. Before we locked the door behind us, we had a prayer in the living room, grateful for a home that welcomed so many and asking blessings for the new family. In February we took several days off to drive to San Diego with them, and went back down again in March. It’s different, but V+A enjoy the activities at their “resort” and Sue and Rick’s church, plus they still golf 18 holes, once a week! They say it feels like home.
My folks moved from Southern California to our town in Davis. Their home also sold to a new family, who they have had a chance to meet and get to know. They moved last week, and it’s better than I could have imagined. Two of our best friends have a rental four miles away, in a beautiful tree-lined neighborhood…a house that feels like a miniature version of the home they lived in for 45 years. It has three patios and a gardener, and for the first time in my adult life, we live in the same town. In March we stopped at their old house, and before we left, we did a prayer for this home, too. My brothers and sister-in-law came to help with the move, and in hours the house felt like their home. We’ve already had a few BBQs there, and it’s been awesome to see how happy they are. Mom says they miss their friends, but not their house (and certainly not the stairs). This is the right house for them right now, and it is home.
This is what I’ve learned— Home is temporary, even if it’s been one place for 45 years. Home can change. Home is where you live a life, sometimes with someone you love. If you have a coffee cup, a few books, a quilt, a bottle of wine and a place to sleep, you might be home. If you can breathe easier, you are home. If you feel love and loved, you are home. If you are safe, you are home.
The day after my parents moved in, I wrote a poem for them, but really, it’s for both sets of parents. And probably a reminder for me, because in 20 years my daughters will be starting the conversations with us…and our home might move too.
It was full of art, lovingly collected,
and walkways, lovingly tended.
Kids and teens, grandkids and others,
celebrated and served.
Waking to the sky each morning,
space for everyone to take their time.
A garden, a fireplace, a table big enough for all.
A beloved chair by the window, coveted with a
name of it’s own.
Neighbors with a plate of concern,
just checking, lovingly.
A home bustling with projects, meals and holidays,
(and cousins sleeping under the tree).
Conversation, laughter, a few tears.
Books read, cards made, hands held.
Everything that belonged here,
packed into 100 boxes
and moved 500 miles north.
Family history in binders,
sea shells, toy soldiers,
plates, platters, prints and plants,
and Buddha, of course.
It once seemed impossible, didn’t it?
Home, left for a new family
to claim for their own.
Home isn’t permanent, even after 45 years.
It’s just a place where we can sit and share a life,
a glass of wine, and be together,