Thursday, June 26, 2014

Saying goodbye to a home

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.

No less memorable was the table-less dining room with the low-hanging chandelier. Though it had been weeks since it had been filled with food and family, I had no difficulty remembering the holiday dinners, the birthday parties, the card games, and the family reunion in 2008.

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.


  1. I LOVE this! I actually teared up reading this. You can't forget about all those nights watching WW2 battle re-enactments, throwing popcorn to Mocha on the kitchen floor, trying to pack a grandfather clock all by ourselves, or hitting our heads on that dangerously low chandelier on a daily basis.
    Even though I haven't considered Helena my "home" for nearly 7 years now, that house will always be where most of my best childhood memories were created. This was the house where I learned what family and home truly mean.
    I am excited to make the cross-country trip to Alabama with you, to the new home where those values of family and home will be fostered in my own children in the future.
    I love you, daddy!