We call our house "Penthouse North" because if it were on the roof of a high-rise in New York City, our adobe abode would seem gigantic. The moniker keeps life in perspective.
It was wonderful to have the children in the roost for the afternoon as we began to break camp. I sat in the middle of my son's room holding things up as he lay on his captain's bed and watched the inquisition. Things were broken into three piles: "Keep," "Discard," "Give Away." Soon a fourth category appeared, "Not sure."
"This?" I asked as I held up an moldy pair of sailing gloves.
"They're yours," he said.
Put it in the "Keep" pile.
"What about this?" I asked, holding up an old cub scout cap.
"I don't need it anymore. You can get rid of it," he said.
"This?" Hidden in the back of his drawer was a circular tin of condoms that landed there when he moved home from college.
"I don't need them," he said.
"I hope you're not forgetting about birth control," I said. AS IF.
"I know, I know. Okay ... what about this?" I asked as I held up a beautiful little box of bassoon reeds.
"Definitely, keep," he said.
There was the long-lost red plastic retainer case. I shook it. The retainers were still intact.
"They don't fit anymore," he said.
"You are remembering to wear your retainer now and then, aren't you?" I asked. (What was the matter with me?!?)
We moved over to the book section. Keep the Patrick O'Brien series, all pre-5-year old books on dinosaurs, trucks, armored fighting vehicles, and anything pertaining to London, from pre-WWI through to modern day travel books.
In the other room, my daughter started by going through her books. There were her/our favorites: Harold and the Purple Crayon (by Crockett Johnson), Where the River Begins (by Thomas Locker), A Day WIth WIlbur Robinson (by William Joyce), a bunch of Beatrix Potter books, including Meet Hunca Munca, and Now We Are Six (by A.A. Milne). She fought to hold onto old middle school notebooks (I, on the other hand, would walk to China just to bury anything that reminded me of middle school.)
The entire time, I would ask, "Does this bring back a good memory?" As if to validate our 22 years in our beloved home.
"What about this? Does this remind you of something cozy?" As if to quantify that maybe, hopefully, fingers-crossed, I had been an okay Mom.
One of my missions as a mother is to create cozy, loving, warm memories. And though we are packing up and moving on to another house, I may not promise another rose garden, but I do promise to do all I can to create and present a sense of home. A paradise on earth. A place where everyone can be themselves and share stories like this:
"Remember when we would drive to Grandma's and have to go through the Meadowlands in New Jersey?"
"Yeah, yeah??" everyone would ask.
"Well, I used to let it rip in the back seat and because it smelled so industrial around those exits that no one would ever know it was partially me," recalled a family member who begged anonymity if I decided to write about it.
Nice. Well, that's what a sense of home is for. A place to be oneself and to tell the truth. No matter the memory it conjurs ... even if just olfactorial.