The House On The Hill

April 3, 2014

My parents sold their house. They’d been talking about it for awhile now – property taxes too expensive, too much property for my dad to maintain, etc. They put some work into it and put it up for sale in October.

“This is going to take awhile,” I thought. It’s a beautiful house but it’s dated now and it needs work. It also sits awkwardly on a huge hill which can be a pain when the driveway is covered in snow or ice…

A young couple from the city walked into the house with their new baby a month or two ago. They wandered around for a bit, pointed out some things that needed work and then were basically like, “We’ll take it, here’s cash” and that was that.

I was four years old when my parents decided they needed more space and moved us out of Nassau County and into the big house on the hill at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in Miller Place. When we moved in, a huge peach farm hugged the main highway and new construction was popping up in empty lots, mixing in with old houses that had been standing since before the Revolutionary War. I’d meet my neighbor Sam at the bus stop every morning, we’d ride bikes after school or roller skate around her unfinished basement. We’d bounce from neighbor to neighbor all summer, to the one with central air conditioning, to the one with the pool, begging dollars from our parents when the ice cream truck rolled through, making our tongues sting with sour War Heads or too sweet sugary Pixie Sticks.

I have a fuzzy memory or two from my toddler days but really, the only home I know is the one my parents just sold. And as lucky as I am to have had them there until now and as crazy and as selfish as it sounds from a woman of thirty-one, I just thought I had more time. More summer evenings at the backyard picnic table with my mom’s macaroni salad. More walks around the property to see my dad’s new flowers or landscaping adventures. More time sitting on the stoop with a glass of wine listening to the crickets, seeing stars and the flash of the neighbor’s television from across the street.

My parents are so excited about moving. I know they’re nostalgic and sad, just like me, but they’re making an excellent choice and they’ve purchased a beautiful condo in Riverhead. I went out to see it last week and to begin the arduous process of sorting through boxes of things I’ve kept at their house. It was funnier than I thought – particularly once I hit the shoeboxes of high school keepsakes. You can see my two interests clearly – Broadway playbills and Jesus paraphernalia. Cast lists and tech rehearsal schedules, a program from my Confirmation, Jesus stickers on a youth group notebook. Then, notes passed surreptitiously in math class, referencing inside jokes I no longer understand and people I no longer remember. Love letters, artwork, report cards, yearbooks, photographs. One of my favorites: a childhood birthday card from my beloved Grandma Agnes telling me she won at bingo last night, here’s a few extra dollars, love, Grandma.

So many things sorted through, a few boxed up, so many things stacked up in a trash pile, better to let them go.

I saved my tears for the ride home and I’m not even sure what I was crying about, exactly. I know that home is really my parents and they are both still alive and I’m so grateful for that. I know that the next chapter will be full of fun, in a brand new home in a brand new town. Beers on their new patio in the summertime, Christmas in a new living room, meals around the same table taking up a different space. The same drive out to the island from the city, just a little bit longer.

I guess I cried for all the goodness. Because that’s all that really came to mind. I couldn’t for the life of me drudge up anything bad, anything sad, even though I know those experiences are there and that’s alright.

But I suppose during a transition like this, when you have to say goodbye, you remember the goodness. The sweetness. The grace.

Carving out trails in the woods behind our house. Me and Paul and cousins, staying out for hours, making up rules and games, pretending we were experts, tour guides, identifying berries and leaves, finding the best walking stick, man hunt when the sun went down.

Building igloos on snow days with Debbie, taking turns speeding down the hill on sleds, all the neighborhood kids coming inside for hot chocolate, my mom would throw our mittens and gloves in the dryer until we were ready to go back out again.

Jumping in leaf piles, pulling Jeremy in his little red wagon, walking to the Harvest Festival at the junior high school for caramel apples.

Helping my mom weave the sparkly white garland around the bannisters for Christmas. Hanging lights in the windows, securing with scotch tape, waiting inevitably for the tape to give up and for the lights to fall down. Karen Carpenter on the record player.

Falling asleep in the back of the minivan, driving back from the beach or the cousins’ house or a party late at night, waking up when the car hit the tiny bump at the edge of the driveway where the pavement is slightly uneven. Feeling the van turn slightly as it makes its way up the hill, my mom pressing the new automatic garage door opener, shifting the car into park. Paul and I sleepily unbuckling ourselves and crawling out of the car, my parents carrying in my little brother and sister, pajama-clad and snoring. One by one, we’d file up the steps and into our house, which had been standing there quietly, waiting for us to come home.

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  • Amie

    This is a beautiful homage to your childhood home. My parents occasionally talk about selling the house where I was raised. I know they deserve better than the tiny, falling apart house but it’s still so hard to even think of them moving somewhere new. I hope your folks’ new house grows to be an equally special place to you as the house on the hill.

  • Rebekah- 1 of the many cousins

    So many memories in this house. That driveway certainly was very scary- one time our family rented a van and drove up from Alabama for Christmas- we just missed that huge tree backing out. Such a beautiful home full of lots of laughter, it will be missed.

  • Gisele

    You truly have a gift for words dear. I totally get the house thing, I still say “i am going home” everytime i travel to Argentina and stay over at my mum’s house. And I am not sure how would I feel about her moving out and someone else living there.

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