So, I am being brave and walking the walk and sharing some writing.
A few months ago I joined a writers group to help me finish my thesis. This writers group is amazing! I can't emphasize its specialness enough. It has become the accelerator in my life for everything. I have learned that there is so much power in writing and even more so in sharing; something magical happens when you have witnesses to your voice.
While I have been working mostly on my thesis, occasionally I will read something to the group that is personal. As I prepare to go home next week, a lot of emotions have been coming up for me about selling our family home. And I really wanted to document this moment and write about how much that house means to me. I read the piece below on the call last week and felt really good about it, and felt a nudge from the universe to share it. In sharing, I hope I am transforming the energy around this process.
So, here I am... sharing with you.
The Woods at Night
My family home sits atop a large hill, nestled in the woods; tall trees surround it, keeping it safe and protected. When I was younger I used to be afraid of the woods at night, especially when I was alone in the house. The house has lots of very large windows, I felt so exposed and was always sure something was watching me, hearing the sounds of the woods but not being able to see a single thing. I felt scared to look out and into the unknown, and I always hoped nothing was there. But in the day, light falls into each room through skylights and floor to ceiling windows, it’s warm and beautiful. Each room has a view out into the treetops, in the spring the woods are full of blooming dogwood trees. It’s modern with its clean lines and open spaces, vaulted ceilings and carefully planed lay out.
My grandfather was an architect, Charles E. King. In 1988 he was in Architectural Digest’s top 100 architects issue. He very much fit into the Mid Century style of Neutra and Shindler. He designed and built this house for our family. It was completed just a few months after my brother was born. It seems so significant to me now knowing how amazing this gesture was, and what it gave to our family and how it shaped our sense of home. The house is so personal; it is part of our family’s lineage in so many ways.
It’s not just the house itself, but it’s also what it contains. Each room is full of family heirlooms and things collected during travels. But more than that, it is the physical space that holds thirty-one years of memories.
It holds my memories of growing up.
I have thought a lot about what it means to be an adult, and when exactly this ambiguous transformation occurs. When I was younger I always felt so much older than I was in calendar years. I think about the way I always acted as the member of the family that held everyone together. Was I placed in this position, did I volunteer? Regardless, it was too much responsibility for a young girl. And now that I am older I still play this roll for my family.
These days I feel very much like an adult, more so than I ever have. It has nothing to do with age, and everything to do with responsibility. I was just 28 when my mother passed away. I know people who have been younger; I’m not saying I was young. But it was a strange age to be. Because my parents were divorced I didn’t have the other parent taking care of everything. I was that person. I remember going to the funeral home and picking out my mothers urn, shocked not at what had just happened, but at the fact that I was the one in charge, and making all the decisions. There are fewer things in life that throw you into adulthood faster than the death of a parent.
I have talked a lot about how profound and beautiful and magical the moment of my mothers death was for me, it changed everything. But, I rarely like to acknowledge the practical side of how that moment changed my life. The biggest thing was that all of a sudden I owned a home.
This house has come to represent so many things. All the joys and sorrows of growing up are woven together with the history of our family, and mixed together with the memory of my mother, especially because she passed away at home and it still holds all of her belongings.
It’s a complicated thing, this house.
I think I have always felt so free in my life because I knew I had this house to go home to. It was my home base, a place to heal and rest, a place to collect myself when things fell apart, a place to connect to my roots in a physical way.
I have held onto it for three years now. I haven’t been ready to let it go. I go home a few times a year to spend time there and take care of it. I take breaks from working and go and sit in my mother’s closet. I sit there and smell her smell, which is very faint after all this time, but still lingers. I look through her clothes and jewelry, take things out, admire and remember them, and then put them away where they belong. I put them away where they belong. For so long I felt I was spending time with her there. Like I was going home to be with her.
But now I feel this house is asking to be inhabited, and all this time I had been thinking that it was, by her. I am having to reconfigure my sense of home, and my understanding of the roll this house plays in my life. This year I have been going home when I can and starting to really get rid of things. Nothing too personal, I can’t bear just yet to get rid of a pair of shoes or a make-up brush, just the unsentimental stuff that has accumulated in the basement and garage and closets. I remember right after my mother died I wouldn’t let anyone eat anything in the refrigerator that was hers. Knowing that that is where I started, I think I have come a long way. Grief is fascinating.
I know I would never want to go back to the small town where I grew up and live in this home; part of that realization is heartbreaking for me. It is an acknowledgement of how much I have grown and the responsibility I have to my own life. In just a few months we hope to have the house ready to sell. Yet another experience requiring me to untie the strings that keep me tethered to this house, and even more so, to my youth. Part of me feels I will be letting go of a part of my family, and where I come from. How will this letting go change me? What will I do when I want to go home, and have nowhere to go? What will happen to the memory of my mother that lies in the configuration of her things? I am hoping that like all things surrounding my mother’s death, that it will be freeing, and more magical that I could have ever dreamed. But, I’m just not sure. I’m looking out into the void of night, the unknown, but this time hoping I am not alone.