If I remember nothing else, I’ll remember the rooms. I found it impossible this week to walk through the quiet, empty rooms of my Montana home of fourteen years and not think of the times when they were not so quiet and empty.
When I stepped into the small bedroom upstairs, the one facing the lush garden in back, I couldn’t help but think of my three children. Each had called the room their own at one time or another. Like the brightly painted room in the basement, it was their space, their retreat, the place they could collect their thoughts and make their mark — as they (literally) so often did.
Then there was the heart of the house, the open living room with the picture-window view of the northern Rockies. It didn’t seem right without the sofa on one side, the flat-screen TV on another, and a lavishly decorated Christmas tree in the corner. It didn’t seem right without people.
This was a place where memories were made — a venue for countless gatherings, discussions, and photographs. To see it as three walls and a floor was to see it as a carpenter might see it: barren, utilitarian, lifeless.
I knew this would happen. When people pack their belongings and empty their houses, they take more than couches, lamps, and wall hangings. They take memories. They take the very things that defined their lives in a certain time and place.
It’s fitting that this transition occurred this year. My youngest finished high school this month and will soon head off to college. My wife is in the South, training with Teach for America and getting ready to find her place on the front lines of education.
I’ll join her in a few weeks and blaze some trails of my own as a novelist with a lot more time to write, market, and do the things I like to do. Whether I’ll do so in a house or a community as inspiring as the one I’m leaving remains to be seen. But I’m optimistic.
A home, after all, is what we make of it. I plan to make the most of my next one.
Next: Saying goodbye to a city.