The house had been in the family for over 50 years. It was the house everyone gravitated to – for birthdays, holidays, weddings, funerals, and any other family gathering you can think of. There had been days of joy and days of sorrow, days of ordinary and days of extraordinary experienced within those walls. As a young family, they had bought the house when their oldest child was 10. They moved in and proceeded to make the house a home. The children grew to adulthood, but kept coming back to the house. Soon, grandchildren began making their way through the house, running up and down the stairs, playing hide and seek in the closets, stealing cookies from the kitchen. Years passed, and the grandchildren, too, grew into adulthood. And the house remained the hub for the ever expanding family.
The house had been in the family almost 15 years already when she was born. It was the first home she came home to from the hospital. Over the next 35 years, it would be her home again and again, as she came back to live within its walls multiple times. The house itself was a source of comfort, but the others who also lived there made it a home filled with love, understanding, and forgiveness. She lived there with her mother and grandparents, and then later with just her grandparents. She helped take care of them, and they helped take care of her in return. She knew every inch of the house by heart, from the hidden storage underneath the basement stairs to the tiny eaves attic inside the closet. She had dropped clothes down the 3-story laundry shute, and also toys (much to the grandmother’s chagrin). She knew where everything was, even the hidden things, and helped keep all the secrets of the house.
Eventually, the grandparents grew “old”. The grandfather began to have health problems, so she moved back in again to help. When things got better, she moved far away, to another state, but the house was still her home. When the grandfather died, she came back, and the house welcomed her. When her world came crashing down around her and her marriage ended, she moved back in again. Now in her 30’s, the house was again her home, but too proud to admit defeat, she didn’t stay long. She got back on her feet, and moved out for the last time, with that arrogant confidence that the house would always be there for her. Until the day it wasn’t.
When she found out the house would be sold, her biggest regret was not having the money to be able to buy it herself. She, along with the other members of the family picked and chose the things they wanted to take with them to help preserve their own memories of the house and all the times they shared there. She began to fill her own home with things that reminded her of the grandparents, of the times they shared, and the love within the house. Once the house was empty, she wandered through the rooms, thinking about all the time she had spent in the house over the past 40 years. She knew she would probably never be in the house again, so she took her time saying good-bye.
Over the next few years, she would occasionally drive by the house, sometimes alone, sometimes with others in the car. If she had someone with her, she would point the house out and explain her relationship to it. She would not stop, would not hesitate, but would continue on her way without giving any more thought to the house. Then came the day the main road was closed, and the detour led her back to the neighborhood.
She was alone in the car, and had to stop at the stop sign across from the house. In all the time that had passed since she had last been in the house, she had only thought of the house in the abstract, as a building with which she once had a connection, not as a home. It had not been a home in nearly a decade, in her mind. As she sat at the stop sign, looking at the house, she saw it. A young girl, maybe 7, danced through her line of vision in the large picture window in the dining room. The girl was smiling, laughing, having a moment, maybe even making a memory. As she watched the girl disappear from view, it occurred to her that the house was as it had always been – a home. It had been a home when she was a child, when she was an adult, and it was now a home to another little girl. Another little girl who would grow up and have her own wonderful memories of the house, the home.