I’m saying goodbye to my children’s childhood home today. I remember the first night we slept there, Bea, just a tiny thing with fuzzy peach hair. This little two-week old baby dwarfed in rooms vast with emptiness. Our New York City apartment basically fit into one room. The house had floors covered in putrid green shag carpeting, the walls a thick foiled wallpaper. We ripped it all out with little respect for its once elegance. We had no money, of course, with Tim just starting his first job out of law school and me insisting on being a stay-at-home mom. We relied on the help and generosity of our families with whom we hadn’t spent much time since we'd lived away from CT for so long.
My dad routinely visited 11 Craigmoor, bringing loads of groceries from Costco and his tools to help update our home. We didn’t have the best relationship when I was growing up, so his time there healed many wounds. My dad could build anything, and he did... as if he was rebuilding our father-daughter relationship.
I had found a giant bookshelf shaped like a dollhouse in a Pottery Barn catalogue when the girls were little and he said, “Don’t spend the money on that! Let me make it.” And he did.
That Christmas, my girls got the most beautiful bookshelf from Santa. He insisted I tell them it was from Santa.
Over the last 21 years, our house filled up with memories and began teeming with “stuff,” all kinds of props from their childhood. I found their favorite baby blankets in a box. The actual crib leaning against a basement wall. I remember Josie climbing out of that thing before she could even walk! Then the box of t-shirts, mementos from sports teams to road races. I was supposed to make each one of them a blanket from those shirts. Remember that? And Holiday Barbie in a box. Frankie loved playing with Barbies and insisted on getting one she would keep in the box. Well, Barbie is still trapped in that plastic box for over 10 years now. Poor Barbie.
I didn’t actually find bongs, but that sounded better for a blog title than the flavored vodka I found tucked away in the basement. Yeah, right, it’s a friend’s.
Every stage of life captured in stacked plastic bins, stored in the attic. Our time on 11 Craigmoor has played like a movie in my mind with every item I dust off and choose to save, recycle or discard.
This morning, the walls, once buzzing with life in photographs collected over the years, are barren. Everything that had a place no longer does. Instead, the memories are filed away in my mind or moving to the new house because I can’t bear to let them go. The massive accumulation of stuff is staring me in the face.
No one prepared me for the process of dismantling the house where I raised my girls.
I can’t look outside the kitchen window without seeing my girls skating or battling the monkey bars or jumping on the trampoline or swinging high on the tree swing or making mud pies in their playhouse. I see Luna as a puppy running after them. I can’t walk up these stairs without imagining I’m holding their little fingers and teaching them how to climb. I can’t go into the bedroom without flashes of cribs and starter beds and bunk beds and all kinds of sleeping iterations we went through over the years. I can’t look in the bathroom without seeing them all in the tub together, making statues with suds, and screeching with joy.
A house is a thing. A home is a place.
We made this house on 11 Craigmoor a home, and now it’s time to say goodbye to this thing where even the wood seems to have soaked up memories like its multiple coats of paint.
And now I look at the basement door.
I don’t have to imagine anything.
It’s still dotted with faded colors of measured height lines and initials. “Daddy,” the tallest, was always the line at the top.
Would he still be today?
Maybe we’ll take that ruler out one last time.