Two years ago, on the day my aging parents moved from their three-story home of 45 years, they expressed little sentiment. My father proclaimed that “some moves are prompted by desire, while ‘necessity’ drives others.” This move’s necessity emerged when my mother’s scoliosis made navigating stairs problematic in that spacious Lexington home where I grew up.
Their lack of emotion surprised me until Dad explained he was too busy orchestrating the move to feel sentimental. And while my mother described the move as bittersweet, she directed her limited energy to selecting which of her treasured paintings would fit in their compact apartment in the independent community two towns away.
All around me, friends were coercing elderly parents out of multistory homes, while my sister and I were relieved our parents accepted that it was time and took action. Other than these thoughts, I also felt little emotion. After all, I’d moved out decades before.
However, after my parents and the moving van drove off, my husband — the family member who most honors the past — requested a final trek around the vacant house.
Steve and I began our tour in the large foyer, where I pictured the old dining room where my parents held dinner parties. I could practically smell the stuffed mushrooms, beef bourguignon, and chocolate mousse cake my mother spent days preparing in her Julia Child phase — well before Costco introduced ready-made gourmet. During these parties, my sister and I were banished to our bedrooms, where boisterous voices debating political issues could be heard thundering up the stairs. Come morning, we’d tiptoe downstairs and sneak chocolate cake.
This memory suddenly unlocked the floodgates of things long forgotten, just as a person tucks a treasured item deep into a drawer, only to discover it years later with surprise and joy. The sentimental valve was now wide open.
In the great room, with its high ceilings and colossal walls, only the hooks of my mother’s colorful art collection remained on the walls. In my mind’s eye, I pictured conductor, composer, and pianist Michael Tilson Thomas playing there in the 1980s for a fund-raiser. I visualized bedecked guests sipping champagne around the rented elegant black piano.
Next, we walked into the dining room, formerly the living room. I imagined my younger mother writing letters with her French quill pen at her green antique desk, the desk that until days before had held her pink Dell computer. And I imagined my father sitting at his French armoire paying bills, the rich wood dark against the pale cream-colored walls. Both antiques moved with them.
In the kitchen, I opened the cabinet where my mother had marked the heights of my daughters and niece as they grew from toddlers to teens to young adults. They’d long surpassed the door.
Steve and I climbed to the second floor. In my old bedroom, I pointed out where posters of the Beatles and The Monkees once lined the walls. Then I peered out the window that looked out front, and in my imagination I heard the blare of a car horn by a crush I’d waited years to ask me out during high school — recalling that I’d returned home from that date disappointed that he was a lousy kisser.
Soon, Steve and I locked the front door, knowing the new owners would open it next. I leaned my head on his chest and cried for a second, not for the loss as much as my joy that the new couple and their young children — not much younger than my sister and I when we began our journey there — were eager to launch their own memories and make it a bustling home once again.