To everything, there is a season…
‘Tis the season for big changes. My father has decided to sell the home he’s lived in since 1972. The house is a monster; rooms upon rooms gave birth to more rooms. It’s a behemoth, and with anything this gargantuan, it has to be fed colossal amounts of gas, oil, electricity, and plumbing, and it’s just too much of a feat for my father to maneuver any longer. I wanted to buy it desperately, but my husband is telling me we need to downsize, not upsize. Whatever. Maybe my next husband will buy it for me and my current husband can live on the ninth hole.
I’ve been decluttering the house prior to showings. After 40 years of living in the same place, our parents tend to not see the compilation of … ummm … “treasures” anymore.
That crap multiplies like procreating bunnies. I explained to my father that I was simply storing his knick-knacks temporarily and not throwing anything away. You know, like he and my mother threw away my Barbie camper, Barbie 747 and Barbie Town House. I wouldn’t do that, because it leaves emotional scars! Anyway, he had a hard time watching his inventory removed.
“No! The blue ceramic cat and the two dogs are cute! Leave them out! Look where I fixed the cat after your brother came home drunk one night in college and tripped over it.”
“Dad. That was not a blue ceramic cat. That was our real, live dog, Dusty, and he broke his leg and you did not fix it with Elmer’s glue.”
“Huh. I thought it was the blue cat. OK, now be careful with the man hitting the gong.”
I threw it away. I don’t care. In no world should anyone display a man in a loincloth and turban hitting a gong which doubles as a planter. Nowhere. Ugh.
When he wasn’t looking I gathered up acres of polyester floral bouquets and shoved them in the box atop the cupid candle sticks and the five ashtrays. Five. No one has smoked in that house since 1974.
As I was hiding the plastic fruit under my shirt in order to dispose of it, my father suddenly looked defeated. He sat down and said, “All these years…all these memories and there they go…” I felt terrible. I put the ugly swans and the beer steins back.
“I know, Dad. It’s making me sad, too. We had a great life in this house. But it’s the right time to move on. You’re making the right choice.”
I went upstairs because I was crying. Plus, I needed to throw away the seahorse-shaped soaps. I walked from room to room, sniffling. I remembered throwing my sister’s dolls out that third floor window, hiding Malt Duck in the linen closet, marking the walls with awful messages before they were wallpapered because we thought it would be a hoot when the wallpaper was removed one day and the new owners read: “Help us! We’ve been locked in the attic for 30 years! We ate each other to survive.”
Huh. That sounded so much funnier when I was 10.
This house has our lifeblood running through it, but you have to know when to say goodbye.
It’s the season to bid farewell. My father will love his new home because he is an epic adapter and optimist. We will visit him there and I will bring the Malt Duck and maybe put out an ashtray. We won’t cry anymore. We will tell tall tales of a broken blue cat and naked Barbie Dolls stuck in rain gutters.
And we will laugh.
Maria Jiunta Heck of West Pittston is a mother of three, a librarian and a business owner who lives to dissect the minutiae of life.