It's Not About Unfamiliar Walls
The year was 1987—July of 1987, to be exact. I buckled my two children into the car and headed back to Rolla to help Granny pack up her life (and a HUGE part of mine). She’d stayed on the farm for almost four hears after my grandpa died, but it was time to move to town. Practically speaking, anyway. She didn’t want to go. I didn’t want her to go. But she knew it was the right thing to do. Me? I wasn’t convinced. This place—the house, the barn, the pig pen, the shed, the gardens, the big mimosa tree out by the road, my tire swing, the desk where I’d played ‘seed catalog sales’ (don’t judge), the woods behind the barn, the…everything that was my childhood. I didn’t think holidays, Saturday morning housecleaning followed by beans and cornbread for supper, or anything else, for that matter, would ever feel right again. But that was beside the point. So with boxes of tissues in hand, we pulled out of the long driveway one last time and headed for town.
Fast-forward sixteen years (give or take a few months). Granny sat in her chair going through boxes and dresser drawers I brought to her while I packed up closets, emptied shelves in the basement and took truckload after truckload of stuff to the building where the auction would be held later that week. This time she was really downsizing to a nice, but tiny neighborhood solely for seniors. She wasn’t overly excited to be leaving, but once again, she knew it was the right thing to do. Me? This time I was more ready than she was. My kids, on the other hand, weren’t. This was the house they’d grown up coming to. This was the only place they knew that went with their Granny and they weren’t keen on giving it up. They couldn’t see how things would ever be right again when it came to gathering around Granny’s table or just hanging out with her (which they often did).
But somehow it all came together. No—not just somehow. It all came together because the walls of the house weren’t holding anything up but the ceiling. The love, respect, and devotion, we had for Granny and she for us, were held by our hearts.
Now let’s fast-forward to 2012. We, as in me, John, and our youngest daughter, Emma, left the farm. We left the familiar walls—the walls that had housed our family of six throughout their growing up years. Soon after that Emma married and moved even farther away, and John and I moved to the southwest corner of the state. We moved into unfamiliar walls. And while we were unpacking boxes to put our things away within these unfamiliar walls, our children had some unpacking of their own to do.
It wasn’t entirely easy for our kids to accept the fact that we would no longer be living at home—their home. Even though they no longer lived there, either. And I’m going to be honest in saying that I get the feeling that it’s still not easy for all of them. I get the feeling that there’s a little part of their hearts that wish family gatherings and holidays were still happening back home. That Mom and Dad’s house is fine, but it’s not…home. That it’s not the same because they don’t have memories of this place...this place that isn't home.
Now don’t think for one minute I’m angry at them because of it. I get it. It took me a while to realize after Granny moved to town that more than just the dishes, table, and food were the same as before. She was the same. The same woman who loved me like no one else could.
And when she moved into the tiny house, even though some things were different, the things that mattered, were unchanged, i.e. the people there and the love we shared.
So, to all you adult kids out there whose parents downsize and relocate: I get the fact that the place you called home is always going to be special. It will always be a place you long to go back to for just a little while. But here’s the thing—you can. You can in your heart. You can when you look at your mom and dad and see the love they have for you in their eyes. You can when you hear their voices telling you they got honey for the rolls ‘just for you’. You can when you realize your mom made sure she had made everyone’s favorite something. You can when you hear your dad reminding you to check the oil in your car. You can when you look around and see that those unfamiliar walls are filled with things that are familiar. And then hopefully you will realize that coming home isn’t about the walls. Coming home is about…well, hopefully at this point you know what it’s about.