Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saying Goodbye

The day my father came home and announced we were moving to live on an island, I didn't really understand. I was 6, and my world consisted of the warm little nucleus my mother had created at home for us, church, and first grade. And so, months later when we had undergone training in Dallas, raised the support needed, and actually packed our home, I started to realize what moving might really mean.

My mother, brother Nathan, and I in the woods behind our house.
We had lived up till that point in the Texas hill country, outside of Austin. The house we lived in was built plank by plank by my father. He would come home from a long day of nursing his start-up software business, strap on his worn tool belt, and climb to the rafters to nail drywall. Dad's tool belt, to me, is similar to his wedding ring. It symbolizes comfort, security, and my father's deep strength and ingenuity.

Me, playing in the foundation of our house while it was being built.

My mom would paint and lay tile during the day, while she also watched the four of us. My brother was born in the upper bedroom of that house, his first indignant cries echoing over the virgin hills. The house took 5 years to build.

The last night we had in it, we slept on pallets of blankets on the floor. In the morning, we would climb into our loaded U-Haul and make the trek to Houston, board the plane after kissing tearful grandparents, and head off into the unknown. I was quivery with excitement. Change electrified the air and made it hard to sleep, but I finally did. The morning dawned cool and fragrant with the hill country's special blend of cedar and live oak trees. Morning doves wooed each other from the woods behind our house.

We ate our Cheerios and milk for the last time at the breakfast bar in the kitchen, while my parents loaded the last of our things into the truck. I talked excitedly with my siblings. Our child's minds could not see past a trip to Houston and the grandparents. Breakfast done, we were herded outside. My mom stopped me.
Nathan, me, and my mom holding Anna, in our VW van.

"Danica, do you want to go say goodbye to the house?" I looked at her strangely, wondering why I would want to say goodbye to a house, and was caught by a deep something hidden in her eyes. I think in that moment her heart needed me. So I followed along beside her, taking in the strangeness of the empty rooms. We made our way through the downstairs, then up to my parent's room and bedroom. My room was the last we visited.

I stepped into the barren emptiness. The ceilings stretched high above me, un-anchored by friendly furniture, pictures and toys. The room seemed huge. I stood in the middle of it, lost suddenly in the space, and reality smacked me for the first time in my young life. I grew in that moment, a part of innocence lost, when I realized that this room of dreams, romps, and imaginary playmates, the room that was somehow my friend, had turned its back on me. It offered no comfort, no sanctuary. The blank walls stood aloof and the windows stared in haughty starkness.

I felt my mother's hand on my shoulder, and I looked up to see that she was crying. We sank together in the middle of the nothingness and I cried from the torn place in my heart onto my mother's chest.

1 comment:

  1. Memories of standing in empty rooms at times seem to overtake my life...