I was in 3rd grade when my parents decided to put our house on the market and look for someplace with more room. At that time, my grandparents were in the process if finalizing a long divorce and had recently put their house on the market. Grandpa had already moved out and Grandma was having a hard time holding down the fort by herself until it sold. Excited by the idea of keeping the house in the family, my parents had the house independently appraised and bought it from them.
Thinking we would be thrilled by the fact that we’d soon be living in one of our favorite places, my parents took us on a drive to visit our “surprise” new home. We walked through the front door, hugged Grandma and Mom joyfully pronounced the words “welcome home!” My confusion (Wow! Um…wait, what?), concern (Where is Grandma going to live? Will we still keep licorice on the counter when we live here?) and anger (no! This is Grandma and Grandpa’s house! I don’t want it! Nope.) were quickly assuaged by an offer to choose my bedroom first.
Annie and I happily settled into our new bedroom wing digs (separate rooms for this first time ever) and the 1988-89 school year started a week later. Gradually, “going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house” began to feel more like “coming home.” Likewise, the excitement associated with “Grandma and Grandpa’s house” slowly morphed into a sense of comfort and pride in “our house.” My understanding of what “our house” was all about continued to grow throughout the years.
If there is one thing I hope to have inherited from my parents it is their ability to make people feel safe, respected and valued. Since we moved there in the late 80s, their home has served as a haven for many friends and family members who were in transition, going through rough times, needed to talk, or just wanted to be part of the joyful atmosphere my parents continually cultivate. I can’t tell you how many of my friends over the years assumed that my parents were social workers. No, they just know how to be really good friends. They know how to make people feel safe, respected and valued… because they truly respect and value their friends.
I moved back to my parents’ house temporarily when my fiancé (now husband) and I were transitioning from CA to MN in 2007. While I began house hunting right away, I noticed that Michael didn’t seem to have the same sense of urgency. “I just like how it feels here,” he said. Though we moved to our own home shortly thereafter (sooner than Michael would have liked, I’m sure), we often find ourselves at my parents’ place during the week. They live in a central location – “office east” we jokingly call it— so we often run into each other or my sister there between meetings with clients/appointments/classes. OK, full disclosure: their fridge full of food is usually a draw as well, especially around lunchtime.
Each time I round the bend into the cul-de-sac and see the cars of friends and family members in the driveway, each time I pull the basement door closed too quickly, inadvertently slamming it and eliciting a “Whoa! Hello? Jenno?” from my mom upstairs, each time I wander into the livingroom and hear my dad play a riff on his guitar and say “Jenny’s here!” I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have grown up feeling safe, loved and respected every day.
I know my parents will move out of their house one day [that part was for you, D]. While I will be sad when this happens, I also understand that my associations with this place have much more to do with the people who have inhabited it than the physical space itself. The haven I have come to know was created by my parents’ spirit and life philosophy, and these are things that transcend both space and time.