last weekend or maybe the weekend before (you try keeping track of my life, because i can’t) i got up at the crack of dawn and packed up a nippy golden puppy and his treats, blanket, and food for the day. we drove out to the far west suburbs to where my parents still live in the house i grew up in.
the house i interviewed last thanksgiving.
it was a truly gorgeous day, that saturday, and i’d promised to help my mother clean up their yard in preparation for the upcoming thunderbolt of change facing our family in the eventual listing of said home and property on the For Sale section of the ubiquitous Multiple Listing Service.
as my father’s company nears its headquarters relocation to the far north suburbs, and spring makes its (INCREDIBLY SLOW) appearance, the day on which a stranger from afar will have the option to call my home their home fast approaches.
as such my mother is predictably stressed, and the idea of her crawling around our front lawn turning over mulch and pulling away weeds was just to unbearable to even contemplate…plus i’ve realized the perfect remedy for stress is cleaning up puppy urine and i also know one puppy who’s favorite thing to do is urinate.
perfect. match. as they say.
a long time it’s been since i was doing chores that i myself hadn’t assigned to me. initially it was disconcerting…i thought i was done with that kind of thing when i moved to the city and stopped living off of my father. i enjoyed being able to help, surely, but when the first rake snapped in half under a heavy load of mulch i began longing for the urban jungle and its…lack of nature.
branner, on the other hand, was happier than a pig in shit.
once he’d accustomed himself to the idea that the big yellow house and friendly older woman showing him gobs of attention didn’t mean he was in danger, he warmed up to the idea of spending the day outside and watching me sweat.
since “warmed up to the idea” means “desperately wanted to BE the mulch i was attending to,” i had my mother take him on a number of long walks. every one of which he was repeatedly relieved to find out didn’t mean he’d never see me again.
it was nice, being home, with nice weather, some physical labor, and some suburban solitude.
it was comforting to see our rickety house in such pristine condition, with new hardwood floors and paint and carpet and doors. to open up the stainless steel refrigerator where the clammy white one used to be.
to hear my mom whisper “i love it” whenever she went near an appliance.
and at the same time, it’s unsettling, being back there. the ocean of memories i have in that place seem to be slowly dusted off the furniture, and the whole place starts to look like a snapshot of my past that someone took an airbrush to, cleaning up all the grimy or unbecoming nicks and scratches.
our front door had a crack in it for something like ten years. icicles used to form discreetly along that crack line during winter and i used to center my sight line on the sunlight creeping through it as i sprinted down the hallway to make a 180 degree pivot to charge up the stairs. you can imagine how many times.
the crack is gone now, in its place a beautiful new oak front door.
in many ways, the changes and eventual surrender of this place verify the long road i’ve taken since i ran around the bubble of my old neighborhood without many cares to speak of. the immeasurable journey my sisters have made since they were the little people i remember holed up in their respective childhood bedrooms. i am not as sentimentally inclined as my mother, and i look forward to the steps she and my father will take in their new journey as cosmopolitan empty nesters.
but i’ll always be my mother’s child, and as such i’ll always have a fondness for this acre of land in rural illinois, where i became a good and smart person, a good soccer player, and i threw some damn near amazing parties. it will always be a place i’ll go to reunite with people i’ve loved and cared for.
it will always be home for me.