28 Aug Saying Goodbye
This was the story I made up for the kids tonight. It starts the same as they always do. I cried a lot during this one.
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Henry and his little brother’s name was Danny and his little sister’s name was Ellie and they liked to play up and down Morgan Avenue. One summer day, something happened.
They said goodbye to the trees where their backyard fairy Tatiana lived. They said goodbye to the spidery sheds where they kept their bikes. They said goodbye to the pool where they learned to swim. They said goodbye to the yard where they had birthday parties and Easter egg hunts and ran around with their cousins. They said goodbye to the garden that was always overgrown. They said goodbye to the juniper, pachysandra, hosta, sedum, and to the lilies. They said goodbye to the peach tree. They said goodbye to the berry bushes that made berries that the birds ate before you could try one. They said goodbye to the rosebushes Mom planted when Papa John died. They said goodbye to the path that Dad made for Mom’s birthday. They said goodbye to Shorty the squirrel who was hit by a car, and the other one who drowned in the pool, buried in the yard. They said goodbye to the floppy peony always covered in ants, and the lilac Mom and Dad had at their wedding. And goodbye to the pear tree that Dad planted after he mowed the other tree. And goodbye to the one flowering tree out of ten that Dad didn’t mow. And goodbye to the new one planted just this year.
Goodbye to the steps where they took back to school pictures. Goodbye to the side yard always full of cat poop that was good for raking leaves and jumping into, or building a snowman. Goodbye to the place where the trash cans go. Goodbye to the round river rocks around the foundation of the house.
Goodbye to the front door with a threshhold that Daddy carried Mommy over when they bought the house. And goodbye to the bay window that let the winter breeze blow on your neck as you sat on the couch. Goodbye to the window where you could shout out to Bobby and DeeDee next door, or cousins Evie and Jace, or say “I LOVE YOU CAROL BARRETT” to the babysitter as she was leaving, or blow a kiss to Henry as he left for school. Goodbye to the pellet stove where we’d have a fire and eat popcorn. Goodbye to the place where the train table goes, and the place where the rock & play goes, and the place where the pack & play goes. Goodbye to the bookshelves and the cabinet where you can keep stuffed animals. They peeled off the stickers, the dandelion one, the mouse one, the spoon one, the two that say Austin-Avon family. They changed the lightswitch cover so it was a normal one and not the fire alarm pull station one. Goodbye crown moulding that Papa put in. Goodbye, room that we celebrated the buying of this house in, with lawn chairs and pizza, drinking Rusty Nails out of candle votives.
Goodbye to the guest room that smelled like dog, with the closet that was always too full of stuff, and the art there wasn’t room for in the rest of the house. With all of the books that Mom can’t let go of, and all the boxes of things from Mom’s childhood home in Killington that she needed to sort through.
Goodbye to the sunny room that was a den and then Mom’s office and then a playroom, with art all along the wall on clothespins and toys and cardboard box creations stacked to the ceiling, with the fire alarm wall and Henry’s desk and the sign that said No Dannys Allowed. With one wall yellow because Mom’s office always has to be yellow.
Goodbye to the dining room where we ate every family meal. Where first there were just Mom and Dad having dinner, and then baby Henry joining for three at the table, and then baby Danny could sit up and eat with us, and then baby Ellie and we had to find an extra chair and put the leaf in for all of us to eat together. Where the cousins would walk around and around the table listening to Gentleman and Gangnam Style and marching in circles. Where Nonna and Papa would stay up late and play board games with Mom and Dad. Goodbye to the spot where the Marchival genie hung on the wall, and where the dishes Mimi painted hung. Goodbye to the wall of art that kept expanding and expanding until it was completely full of art. Goodbye to the chandelier where we’d put in a disco ball for a dance party. Goodbye to Mom’s favorite spot in the house, where she would move the mitten bench to stand on the vent and warm up.
Goodbye to the kitchen island, where we would stand and cut Marchival pies. Goodbye to the nook that used to have a tall round table in it, to the corner where there was a shelf with photos and plants and the Christmas light bottles. To the cabinets with teapots and bowls on top. Goodbye to the potholder thing that never held pots, only the Popener and the corkscrew. Goodbye to the refrigerator that doesn’t work so well, but did a good job holding the kids’ artwork and school notices. Goodbye to the corner where the toaster oven goes, and the sink that Bobby installed with a jigsaw that was trying to die. Goodbye to the cupboard the boys could both fit inside. Goodbye to the many fans in our many rooms.
Goodbye to the downstairs bathroom with the pipes that freeze in winter if you keep the cabinet closed, and to the mirror that says “You are Beautiful.” To the place where Henry and Danny learned to use the potty. Goodbye to the little potty seat in there and to the place where we hang the water spray and hairbrush, and to the shelf where Band-Aids go.
Goodbye to the funny stairs down to the basement, and to the cat door to the basement that Danny always throws things down. Goodbye to the cobwebs and the skunk smell and the little dusty cabinet where we keep candles and the wire basket where tape goes. Goodbye to the furnace — the furnace Mom was so excited to own, and said “I OWN A FURNACE!” Goodbye to the creepy dirt room and the pipe to wrap in heat tape.
Goodbye to the stairs with the light at the bottom and not the top. Goodbye to the place where Mimi’s rainbow carpet goes at the top of the stairs. Goodbye to the step up into the bathroom that we all learned not to trip over in the middle of the night. Goodbye to the place where all the family photos hung. Goodbye, octagon window. Goodbye, textured brown walls. Goodbye, stairs Danny would peek down, and that the kids would go up when they had to go to their rooms, and that they would come down on Christmas morning to see the tree.
Goodbye to Mom and Dad’s bedroom with the pretty curved ceiling and gray painted walls. Goodbye to Dad’s closet where Mom hid for so long during hide-and-seek. And goodbye to the floor that Dad paced over and over with each of the three babies while they nodded off. Goodbye to the place where the changing table was. Goodbye to the room where the boys would “jump on blue bed” every night, and to the place where the rocking chair goes, where Danny would rock to sleep as Mom sang Amazing Grace. Goodbye to Mom’s big closet that she finally got to share with her baby girl, and the spot where we would all sit and paint nails. Goodbye to the room where we would do middle of the night diaper changes and bring babies to bed.
Goodbye, smoke detector that goes off when you shower too long. Goodbye, low window Mom worried about the kids falling out of. Goodbye, trusty washer and dryer that labored so hard with all of these cloth diapers. You’ve served our family well. Goodbye, dragonfly towel hooks and lovely shower with a light in it. Goodbye, bathroom sink and tall cabinet full of things Mom should throw away. Goodbye, hole in the bathroom sink where Danny likes to throw toothbrushes. The new people living in this house will never know that there was a little wild-haired two-year-old boy who liked to throw toothbrushes down that hole. Goodbye, tubby where we would all get in, everyone but Dad. Goodbye, tubby where Henry and pregnant Mommy had a relaxing bath the night before Danny was born. Goodbye, spot where the kids always throw water outside the tub and you have to mop it up.
And finally, goodbye, Henry and Danny’s room, with the shelves that Papa built, and the blue curtains and dressers in the closet, with balloons on the wall and balloons on the ceiling and Nonnie’s teddy bear drawing and Henrys ON NO OK GO ship and all of the stuffed animals and books and treasures. With the pretend vent in the wall and the wall heater and the window to the roof. Where once the rocking chair was and Mom would read to Henry in her belly and think about him living in this room and growing up here. They didn’t know they would have three kids and that this would not be enough house then. They just wanted to walk home from the bars and throw good parties. And they did.
Mommy cried and cried, thinking of all the good memories in that house. She wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do. We all held her and we cried too.
And so they said goodbye. They blew the house kisses and they went to the bank and they signed a lot of papers and they got a key to their new house.
And at the new house, the train table was there, and the dirty kid-stained couches, and Mimi’s hutch and table and chairs. The toys were there, and the plants, and Ellie’s crib, and Danny’s crib, and Henry’s bed that Papa made. The art was ready to hang on the walls. Those things are the same as they were on Morgan Avenue. They make a place into a home.
And the kids got to pick out colors for their bedrooms. Danny picked red. Henry picked orange. Ellie picked orange, too. And Mommy and Daddy picked yellow. And there was a big beautiful kitchen. And a perfect place for the hutch and table and Christmas tree. The bedrooms were big enough that they could have bunk beds if they wanted. And they could look out their windows and see what was going on in the neighborhood, or what the weather was like.
Mommy had a big closet and Daddy had a place to put his guitar stuff. And there was a nice big playroom, and a basement or attic or garage where they could put all their memories in neat organized bins. And Mommy would put special art from school in those bins. And maybe there was a room with high ceilings. Maybe there was a balcony you could throw things off of. Maybe there was a skylight that made a place on the carpet that was warm where the cats liked to lay. Maybe there was a pretty kitchen bar to sit at and do homework, or eat cereal.
Maybe the house had a tree with a swing, or a lot of trees where you could hide and gather sticks and make potions for the fairies. Maybe it had the biggest yard ever and you could have your friends over to play soccer in the big net. Maybe there is an in-ground pool and Ellie will sit on the stairs while you teach her how to swim. Maybe there is a fenced in yard and we will have a dog named Rufus who is such a good dog.
In this house, we will have Christmases and Thanksgivings and Easters and birthday parties. We will cook dinner for friends and have sleepovers and barbecues. We will do homework and fight and cuddle up to watch movies and eat popcorn. We will make after school snacks and plant things in the yard. We will make snowmen and have Marchival and figure out where to stand around to eat the pies. Mom will find the warm spot in the house where the heat vent is the strongest. The cats will find the place where they can sit on furniture and look out the window.
Maybe here you can ride your bike down the street and nobody will drive by too fast. Maybe you will have a best friend right across the street, and every day a whole gang of kids will come over and have a playdate you don’t have to plan. Maybe the next-door neighbor’s name is Clementine and you and she are good buddies and go to prom together. Maybe our pool is where all the neighborhood kids hang out all summer, and at night they play flashlight tag up and down our street.
Danny and Ellie won’t remember Morgan Avenue, probably. They won’t remember living next door to their cousins. Henry won’t remember living next door to Bobby and DeeDee. We can show them pictures. It’s okay. We will tell them stories. They lived here. That matters.
And one day, Henry will move away and Mommy will cry. And then Danny will move away, and Mommy will cry. And then Ellie will move away, and Mommy will cry. And she’ll say, “I can’t live in this big empty house with all these memories.” And Mommy and Daddy will move away from that house. And they will get a small house. And they will take those things with them that are the same. Those things that make a place into a home.
And Henry and Danny and Ellie will get their own houses. And Mommy and Daddy will give them the bins of memories. And some of those things that make a place into a home. And they will say, “I am so proud of you. You turned out just the way I hoped.”
And everyone will live happily ever after.