This Old House

He removed a roasted turkey from the ice chest and set it on the kitchen countertop.

“Um, do we, um, have a knife?”

“Oh, a knife,” I answer. “Well–”

“When I took the butcher block table home with me, I took most of the utensils in its drawers.”

“Then I guess we don’t have a knife.”

“How am I going to carve the turkey? I guess I’ll have to get my hunting knife from the car.”

And so it went for Thanksgiving 2009. There was no can opener for the green beans when it came time to put the traditional casserole together. Yep, hunting knife again. There wasn’t even a table to sit at.

I spent Thanksgiving at the house of my childhood, that constant place, the place of stability and security and order, even at times when my life had none, the place my children knew as a home that would always be there; they’d moved around so much they never had a home like that. My parents bought this house at 807 Deering in April of 1949 before I was even born. It is the only “home” I have ever known. Now, my parents are gone. Dad in 2006, Mama last month.

We’ve done some cleaning and weeding out of things — clothes, shoes, dishes, cookware. The grandchildren have brought rental trucks and removed big furniture items  — a butcher block table, a freezer, table and chairs, recliners, bed, rocking chair, safe. Now, it’s the little stuff that’s left, and the whole family had planned to meet for Thanksgiving for one last celebratory meal together. Everyone backed out, except me, and a son and daughter-in-law and twin grandchildren came for a few hours.

First off, a realtor met me at the house. “It looks good…don’t need to do anything…it’s ready to show…I have a young couple in mind.” Took my breath away.

Then I spent alone-time going through every cabinet, every drawer, throwing away, saving. It surprised me what I saved. A tiny crystal vase filled with stubby red Maybelline eyebrow pencils, the kind we used way back in the day. She had this sitting on her dresser. I cried when I picked up a jar of Vicks Vaporub. Vicks Salve, she called it. How many times did she rub this on my chest when I was little? I cried again as I picked up her jar of Noxema. She always bought this for my sister and me when we were teenagers. She still used it, and I think my sister does, too. Her jar of Ponds cold cream. Her hairnet. Her tea bags — I threw them all away. Box after box of Lipton orange pekoe. They were hers and no one else has the right to use them.

I looked at the backyard where the sandbox used to be. And the slide and swingset. And merry-go-round. I sat Indian-chief style on the front porch where I used to play jacks, next to a big hydrangea bush. Now there’s an azalea and daylillies. I looked at a portion of the driveway that is in front of the living room window and remembered how I would pull in the driveway going 40 mph and brake at the last second as Dad watched from inside. He always shook his head.

Everything happened there. Every. Thing. I kept crying and asking myself, “How do I let it go?” I’m not one to let go easily. I want to hold on dearly to things that are special to me.

Then Thanksgiving morning, as the kitchen was alive and active again, a little seven-month-old boy who bears the family name, the name on the deed of the house — Hardy — came crawling into the kitchen and smiled up at me. And this is what life is made of. The old passing, the new taking over. And it is bittersweet.

3 Comments on “This Old House”

  1. hayley says:

    do we have to sell it?!

  2. linda says:

    What a touching piece; it brought me to tears. Bittersweet, indeed.

  3. Gerri says:

    I love your home too! I remember so well the Noxema and every corner of that house. I remember spending the night there so many times and running the bath water FOREVER. Your Dad would stress out that I was using way too much water!!! We have so many memories together at your house – sunbathing on the roof, walking down 5th Avenue to the college and back countless times. It was so much more fun than anything going on in Boyle!

    I remember the night before your wedding; I cried and cried because I knew that we were passing from one stage in our lives to another and I was not ready for you to go. We had been best friends for so long.

    I am so sorry for the loss of your Mom and for the pain that you are going through. I do hope that your sweet, precious grandchildren can help you in this healing process. God sure sent them at a perfect time.

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