I remember home.
It was safe. It was kind. Even when the people inside sometimes weren’t.
I remember the windows of my childhood home. I remember waiting for balloons to fall from the ceilings after birthday parties. I remember the little space on the counter behind the door in the laundry room – my favorite place to tuck into for hide n seek. I remember the scratchy walls of the office because of some weird special paint my parents had used – I even remember when they painted it. I remember the grout in the kitchen countertops that my mom hated so much. I remember the toothbrush she kept under the sink specifically for those yellowing ridges.
I remember dancing in the living room, tripping over the same stairs every day, and throwing paper airplanes from the second floor into the craft room. I remember the dusty old baby grand we had tucked in the corner of the music room with keys that chimed with the discordant sounds of a carnival and others that merely fell on wood with a faint thump. I remember the metal sun we had hung over the front door so guests would know which house was ours.
My home was everyone’s home. When people needed a place to stay they came to us. We’d shuffle around and make room and welcome our new house members with loud dinners and a new cubby in the ever-growing shelving unit in our upstairs bathroom.
My home had shared custody of the holidays, alternating every so often with my grandparents not too far away. Christmas, Thanksgiving, graduations, birthdays, even random Sunday night dinners - my home is where people came to eat, to laugh, and to connect.
My home was sold just after I turned eighteen.
I love change. When I was growing up, I made every room in the house my bedroom at some point or another. I even spent four months sleeping on a couch in the office while my grandma had her own home renovated. I couldn’t stay in one place too long. I craved transition to create a new feel to my life. A fresh start. A new adventure.
I hate change. I lived in the same house from eighteen months to eighteen years old. I claimed every nook and cranny of that building as my home. It was my safe place no matter what the circumstances were. It was the place my heart could slow down and rest. I have moved five times in the past two and a half years.
Transition seems to have, ironically, become the one constant in my life.
It hurts to think about home. I know moving is pretty common for a lot of people; I know I was really lucky to have a home that lasted as long as it did. It still hurts. Most of the time I try not to think about it; I never talk about it out loud.
I don’t need to go into the details of how and why my home was suddenly gone – you can read about it in my first blog post On Growing Up and Getting Good. Long story short, my parents announced their divorce shortly after I turned eighteen and the house was sold not long after.
I moved out before our home was sold. I didn’t want to face the reality that my family was breaking up, so I stayed away and tried to pretend that things were alright, that everything was normal and okay and nothing big was really happening. Suddenly, I got a text saying the home was sold. I never said goodbye. I think that’s what hurts the most.
My best friend recently told me, “Just because something’s ending doesn’t mean you’ve lost it. It doesn’t take away what’s already happened.”
I think this was a wake-up call for me. Even though we weren’t talking about my home or my parents’ divorce or anything even close at the time, this phrase stuck with me.
I spent so much time trying to forget about my home. I wanted to avoid the pain that comes with remembering how much it meant to me, and how quickly it all went away. It’s in the past. There’s no point being sad when it was the best thing for everyone. This is just a part of growing up. I was committed to forgetting about my home, to moving on and letting go, to not letting myself be sad for what I had lost.
This was a disservice to the home that shaped my childhood, that provided me so much safety and comfort throughout my life. I thought my home was gone and there was no point in mourning something that was never coming back. But my home lives on in my memories. Just because it’s gone now doesn’t change the fact that it was there for me when I needed it. It doesn’t take away from all the amazing experiences I had growing up in that wonderful place.
It’s easy to avoid pain. I, and I’m sure a lot of you can relate, have always been good at shutting off the bad feelings. I’ve spent so much of my life pushing down every negative emotion. I’d have a mental image of shoving that emotion into a little jack-in-the-box, squeezing it through the crack and quickly closing the box before it could pop out again. When I heard the “click” of the box locking, I knew I could forget about that feeling/memory and move on with my life.
As I grow up, I’m trying to get out of that habit. I want to feel my feelings and celebrate transition – ALL transition – even when it isn’t something I necessarily want. I’m learning to sit with my pain, to allow the sensations of grief to wash over me as I remember what I have lost. I want to remember what I had, to be grateful for the amazing things in my past and be excited for the future at the same time. I’m learning that joy and pain can be felt simultaneously.
I don’t do it all the time. I can’t. Most of the time, I still avoid the topic of my home. If I’m going about my day and something reminds me of my childhood, I quickly back away from that memory, like a shark swerving to avoid something in the water. But sometimes, when I am alone and safe and have a minute, I’ll close my eyes and go home. I walk from room to room and let the memories stored in the crevices flash through my mind.
This last move was a lot easier than the others in the past couple of years. I like to think it’s partly because I’ve started carrying my home with me in my heart. For so long I felt displaced, uncomfortable, unsettled. I couldn’t relax no matter where I lived because nothing gave me the same feeling of home that I was used to. Turns out, that feeling comes from within, as cheesy as it sounds. By learning to embrace my past memories instead of fighting them, I’ve given myself the freedom to move forward.
The house I’ve moved into belongs to my dad, and much of the furniture here is the same from when I was growing up. When I first decided to come here, I thought the memories from those pieces of furniture would hurt to look at. I thought they’d keep me from moving on.
Instead, I feel comfort.
This sense of familiarity that I thought I had lost is slowly making its way back into my life. When I sit on the couch, covered in a geometric pattern of browns and reds, I remember watching Doctor Who and The Walking Dead with my family every night during dinner. Now I watch Ted Lasso with my dad after I finish my homework. When I go to the kitchen, I see the dining table where all our family dinners were held, where I fell off a chair and skinned my leg in fifth grade, where I’d sit and do homework while my mom cooked dinner. Now my dad, my sister, and I sit there and eat Capriotti's sandwiches during our lunch break.
The past and the present are blending together, and each day it hurts a little less. New memories are being made right alongside the old ones. My childhood home may be gone, but the experiences I shared there are still very much alive, and they continue to grow each day.
I thought the best way to make it through transition was to forget about the past and look only towards the future. Turns out, acknowledging what you’ve lost in the change is one of the best ways to move forward, at least in my experience.
About the Author
Currently a student at UNLV, Perri is pursuing her bachelor’s in English while working as a content writing intern for the Love Yourself Foundation. She spends most of her time writing, crocheting, sewing, and playing with her two cats. After graduation, Perri hopes to expand her freelancing business for writing and editing while she travels around the country.