We moved into the three bedroom house in 1967. I was nine. We moved because my mom decided we needed a bigger place, even though two of her four children were gone or leaving soon. My second-oldest sister was getting married in a few months and her fiancé’s parents were going to stay with us. Mom was embarrassed, I think, to have them see the old place. I also think she’d wanted to move for quite a while.
Dad loved the old house. He’d planted rose bushes around the perimeter of the back yard and took loving care of them for ten years. He and Mom had a nice vegetable garden in the back. There were lilac bushes back there, too. Dad cried the day we moved. Mom was all smiles.
The new house sits on about half an acre in a nicer neighborhood. Mother had a vegetable garden there for many years. Each year she’d till up a little more of the lawn. She’d freeze and can the surplus harvest every year. Dad built her shelves in the basement to store all the canned goods (and the year’s supply of food their religion requires members to store).
Mom decorated the house in the fashion of middle-class families of the time: Rust and brown furniture in the living room, Danish Modern dining room set. The décor never changed. The chairs got recovered eventually, in new patterns of rust and brown. Her children all moved out, her husband died. Dogs came, dogs died. New cars parked in the garage. Neighbors moved away.
For years the house has been too much for her. She fell into the shrubbery last summer while turning on the sprinklers. She couldn’t get up and lay there for about an hour before finally crawling to the steps and pulling herself up. She had automatic sprinklers installed shortly after that. Her doctor told her to stop going into the basement. My sister and I emptied her food stores and moved everything upstairs. She slipped in the shower, so a cousin installed a hand shower and shower chair. Year after year, we’ve made adaptations to her changing body. She’s made adaptations. In the end, they’re just not enough. Last winter her doctor told her she can no longer live on her own.
Now, her house is going to belong to somebody else.
I’ve been “in charge” of the house sale, contacting the realtors, signing the papers, dealing with inspections. I think my oldest sister asked me to handle the sale because I’m meaner than my sisters. It can’t be due to my home-selling experience; I’m the only one of Mother’s four children who has never bought a house. For over 20 years I’ve yearned for a home of my own. My life’s been full of twists and turns, none of them leading to home ownership.
I talked to my mom about the sale over the weekend. She doesn’t want to lose her house. She doesn’t want to live in someone else’s home. She wants to go home. I feel that, deeply.
May the new owner of my mother’s house enjoy many years of health and happiness there. May her family always have plenty. May they share great love.