New Vistas and the Streets I Used to Walk

My firstborn has flown again. What was originally planned to be a one-week visit with us turned into a six-week stay, thanks to the timing of the pandemic. But he left Sunday to drive halfway across the country to his new life in the Pacific Northwest, arriving at his destination on Tuesday night. I have so much admiration for his courage in pursuing his dreams. I think he’s in a place where he’ll thrive. At least I hope so.

He was a good son and messaged his mother at every stop to let me know he was still alive. Here’s part of our exchange from Monday. Caveat to readers in states mentioned: he and I both know there are a lot of positive things about those states. This is more about the experience of grueling interstate travel.

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Meanwhile, I’m still, until next week, on a very flexible work from home status. Which means I get to go out for a walk every day. Yesterday, with the knowledge I would likely not see my oldest child for several months at least, I suffered a fit of nostalgia and walked around to see every house we lived in with our kids previous to our current residence. We’ve stayed in the same part of town, so my entire journey was accomplished in under an hour.

I didn’t take any photos of the homes because I didn’t want to seem creepy. But it was enough to see them and mull over my memories. First I went past the bitty little rental house where we had our first baby, the house where my self-identity changed forever. It had originally been a garage, later being converted to a home. The 8 x 8 bedroom we’d designated as the nursery was never used as such while we live there, as I discovered we all three got more sleep when the baby was in the room with us. We stayed there for two years, moving on to a different rental house with more space as we discussed expanding the family.

Rental house number two where we had child number two was a small, but not tiny, brick ranch house with an unfortunate tendency for the pipes to freeze in the winter. But it had a yard for outdoor play and was on a quiet, dead-end street with great neighbors, including two different retired couples who loved to fuss over the children the block. We liked living on that street so much that we bought a place only a few doors down a year later, the house I think of as our first true family home. We moved in when our kids were ages three years and three months respectively, and stayed until they were eight and five years old.

It not only had a lovely yard, but the back yard was fenced, something that had never meant much to me before I had children whom I sent out to play. There were two bedrooms downstairs and a big finished attic that we turned into a playroom/office. It was where my husband used duct tape and boxes to construct a playhouse within the playroom — a structure that kept the kids entertained for hours on end. It was where we lived when my oldest started kindergarten. Where we spent many hours drawing on the cement driveway with chalk, blowing bubbles while sitting on the front steps, seeing how high we could stack the spiky balls from the sweetgum tree before they started to tumble. It did my heart good yesterday to see that whoever lives there now is taking care of the place. The roof looks brand new.

And then the walk back to our current home, scene of many birthday parties, gatherings of friends after Halloween trick-or-treating, games of hide and seek, enthusiastic science experiments, homework battles, teenaged drama. There’s a parking area in back where the training wheels first came off my younger son’s bike, and where later, both kids would practice parallel parking between camp chairs with vertical poles attached. This is the house where we had a wheelchair ramp constructed so I could bring my mother to visit, where we’ve chased out bats and raccoons, where we’ve repeatedly fought city hall over proposals to make the street more like a highway, and where we are now problem solving how to set-up dual home offices for my husband and myself.

Life changes slowly and all at once.

Letting Go of Childhood a Piece at a Time

“It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn’t.” – Barbara Kingsolver

Goodbye old friend.

I took a load of  – I hate to call it clutter – let’s say I took a load of personal history to Goodwill today. It needed to be done. Outgrown clothes and some Zumba hand weight thingies I won as a door prize one time. Those I won’t miss.

But my kids both sorted through their books a while back and put a stack in the give away pile. I sighed and pined as I stroked the cover of each book before putting it in the brown grocery bag. I even skimmed through a couple of them. I miss the days when the kids and I read together. Goodbye Enid Blyton. Goodbye Boxcar Children.

As hard as it was passing on the books, the real wrench came with the toy shopping cart. My husband and I gave it to our daughter for Christmas the year she was three. At the time, I had little faith in its durability. I thought she’d play with it for three or four months and then get tired of it or it would break. I’ve never before or since given anyone a gift that was such a hit. It was the first package opened, and my daughter used it the rest of the day to deliver items to people. After that, the cart often went with us to the grocery store, where my little girl would do her shopping right next to mine. It delivered our “extra mail” sometimes – pieces of scrap paper or real junk mail that I gave her so she could do her postal rounds.

When we moved from our old house to the one where we now live, my daughter was eight. We did a severe pruning of goods at that time, but the shopping cart survived the cut. My son was barely five, and he still played with it sometimes. In fact, my daughter did, too, even though she towered over it by then. After a while, nobody pushed it around anywhere, but it sat in a corner of my daughter’s room, where she used it to store craft supplies.

A couple of years ago, she decluttered her room and finally moved out the shopping cart, telling me she was ready to let go of it. So I placed it in a corner of my and my husband’s bedroom, where it remained for another two years. I kept thinking I couldn’t give it to just anyone. I was waiting for the right child to come along. I wanted to know who got it and perhaps see them play with it. But that never happened.

This morning I stopped kidding myself. Since I was taking several things to Goodwill anyway, I knew I needed to include the cart. My daughter is 17, for goodness sake. It’s time for some other child to discover it and get some joy from it, even if I never know who that child is. I had to dab a tear as I put the shopping cart in the back of my van. I know for the next year or two, I’ll keep my eyes open at the grocery store, hoping to see some little kid pushing a blue and pink cart down the aisles.