September 18, 2013

Saying Goodbye Part 1 - My Parents' House

I’ve lived in many buildings over the course of my life. I set up shop in the Big Apple for one glorious summer and had a nice run in the Windy City (even won two softball championships there—go T-Hawks!). Before that, I spent four of the greatest years roaming the campus of Ohio University, where the marching band is more popular than the football team and Halloween is holier than Christmas.

But there are only two places I’ve ever really called home. And in the course of a week, I had to say goodbye to both.

Saying Goodbye to My Parents’ House

From the time I was an infant to the time I left for college, I only lived in one house—my parents’ house on Quebec Road. The house was small and didn’t have air conditioning, but it had a lot of heart (which is code for one bathroom). I can remember bringing my sister home from the hospital, a proud big brother wanting to hug and to love her. That's why I picked her up from her crib, set her on our couch and propped her up with a pillow 3 times her size. My parents were certainly terrified impressed.

Of course, she returned the favor years later when she drew along our stairwell wall with red crayon and, as our parents asked who was to blame, pointed the finger at me (forgetting that the red crayon was still in her other hand).

My parents' house is also where my grandparents babysat my sister and me all the time. We’d drive my grandma crazy because she’d put us to bed and say, “I don’t want to hear a peep!”—to which my sister and I would say “Peep!” (and giggle) for the next 10 minutes.

It's the house where I learned to ride a bike and where I started growing chest hair. It’s where I struggled to find my identity. It's where my style changed from wearing everything as a cape ... to jams and chucks ... to overalls with one strap undone and Air Jordans ... to wearing my clothes Totally Krossed Out ... to layering on the flannel and corduroy pants and growing my hair shaggy long ... to slapping on the punk-rock high waters, chain-wallet and dying my hair bright orange.

It’s where in grade school I sat on our porch every afternoon, waiting impatiently for my dad to make his way down the hill from the bus stop after work so I could greet him with a hug. It’s also where in high school my dad sat on the couch every weekend evening, waiting impatiently for me to get home by curfew to make sure I was safe.

That house is where my mom taught me how to read and write, and where she helped me write my first short story about a planet named Crouton in the Galaxy of Salad. It’s also where I showed her my tattoo for the first time and gave her a heart attack.

And it’s at that house where my wife Brittany and I announced that we were giving my parents what they always wanted: a grandchild (which gave my mom a second heart attack.) Honestly, I’ll never forget the sheer excitement of the scream that came from my mom that day. It may be the moment I miss the most from that home.

As I stood in my old bedroom for the last time, I teared up. I hadn’t lived there in 16 years, yet still it was incredibly hard to say goodbye. I met the family moving in—a family with two young daughters. Both excitedly bounced around “their” new room. Wiping my eyes, I told them how my sister and I used to surprise our parents and rearrange our furniture every once in awhile just for fun. I also pointed out where my cabbage patch doll, Ozzie, used to sleep. I couldn’t believe I was saying farewell, but I was so happy to know that new memories were about to be made.

“Treat this room with love and it will love you back,” I said. “Also, don’t draw on the walls with red crayon and blame each other.”

After two years of clearing out old memories, my parents house has become just that—a memory. But whenever I drive down Quebec Road, I’ll always slow down and wave (with love) as I pass by.

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