Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Home Is Where The Heart Is

At least, that's what they say. But is it true? I mean, when you think of "home", where do you think of? Do you think of your current address, where you live today? Do you think of the house you grew up in?

I think "home" is contextual. Most days, in my regular, daily existance, when I refer to "home" I'm usually meaning my own personal dwelling with my immediate, nuclear family. The Chick Family. As in, "c'mon kids, let's go home and get some lunch" kind of thing. But in a larger, grander sense, "home" is the house I grew up in. As in, "are you going home for Christmas?" when you have your own place but it's clearly not what is being referenced in that question.

My parents are getting ready to sell my "home", and it feels very, very strange.

But what is weirder is that when I think back on my childhood - those formative years consisting mostly of elementary school - I'm thinking of a different house altogether. From the ages of 4-12 we lived in a different house in a different city than where my parents live now. That's where I have most of my memories of riding my bike to my friends house to play. Of making up all sorts of imaginative games and spending hours and hours refining them. Of knowing all the kids in the neighborhood and being able to go off on my own and find things to do. Of childhood. Then we moved to Portland - I was in the 6th grade - and that's where my parents have been ever since. For something like 25 yrs.

This is the house that I think of when I think of "home". It's where I lived during all of my sometimes rocky adolescence. My teenaged years. Zits, malls, driving, boyfriends and proms. All that high school goodness. Going away to college then coming back "home" for the summers. Buying my first house but still going "home" for the occasional dinner when I didn't want to cook. Morning-after wedding brunch. Holidays. The place you go and see your senior portrait still hanging on the wall. Grandma and Grandpa's house. The place where all of us could and would gather - the centerpiece of our family. And now it's going on the market so another family can move in and start making it their "home". It makes me a little sad to think about.

But it's time. Logically, I completely agree with my parents that it's the right time to sell. They're empty-nesters who no longer need a 3200+ sq.ft. traditional colonial with 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. On a sloped 1/4 acre. It's just too much house. It's a house built for a family, not a semi-retired couple. Plus, the neighborhood, ridiculously stable and much-desired, has seen home values soar to unbelievable levels and more houses are starting to go on the market as the "old guard" moves out to make way for younger families. So if my parents sell now they can reap big bucks for the house. If memory serves (and I have a freakish memory for such things), they bought the house in 1981 for $140,000. BIG money back then. They're going to list it for $650k - $675k. Nice.

So the plan is to sell the big house and do a big fat remodel of the small rental house they own. It's a small - very small - 2 bdrm, 1 bath bungalow in a cute, nice neighborhood. It's only about 3 miles away from my parents' big house. They're going to dump a fat wad of the proceeds into the remodel and make that small house a decently-sized one. 3 bdrms + office, 2.5 baths, great room. 2200+ sq. ft. with all the bells and whistles. Nice, flat yard (vs. the sloped/hilly one they have now). One level living, which is good as they age and stairs might become a difficulty down the road. So it makes perfect sense. They'll live at their lake house between selling the big house and finishing the remodel of the rental.

I went over there last night to help my mother get ready to put the house on the market. Her realtor made a few suggestions of a few things to rearrange or get rid of completely to enhance the "staging" of the house. Thankfully not much as my mother has great style and the house always looks nice and organized. But it made me sad to see some family photos come off those walls. To see pictures of our family over the years no longer in the places they've been for decades. To roll up some rugs, move the heirloom piano, box up and cart stuff out to the garage. My parents won't be taking everything with them to the new house. They can't. So we were discussing where certain things will be going. Did we want anything? At this point, it seems my sister will be taking the piano since her son is starting lessons. She may not keep it long-term (it's not her personal style), but for now it'll be going to her house. I might be getting my parents gorgeous dining room furniture. I've always loved it, but it's very traditional and isn't the right style for my current home. I don't care - I'll still take it - at least for now. I was uncomfortable having that discussion because it was like what you have to talk about when someone dies: what to do with their stuff. I guess it's like the Family Home is dying, in a sense.

It's exciting to think about the remodel of the rental house. But it's not "home". And yet, it will be for my parents. It's now the time of the changing of the guard, I guess. Where we (my sisters and I) no longer assume we'll be going to my parents for Thanksgiving dinner and will instead become the hostesses for holidays. Mom and Dad will come to us instead of us going "home". We'll now be the ones in the "big houses" instead of them, better able to accommodate everyone.

So, when everything is over and done with, and my parents have sold the Family Home and moved into their newly remodeled and decorated place, will I still have a "home" in the larger sense? No, I won't. My "home" will only live in my memories and photos. My "home" will then only be the one I'm creating for my growing family. Where my heart is.

My mom's house burned 2 years ago....that is where I have my "memories"...her new house still feels like it belongs to someone else.....time to just let "home" be where my children are and make those oh so great new memories!
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