The End of Childhood

I may be 30 something. I may be a wife and mother. I may have graduated from college, graduate school and have my own business, but just this last week I had to face the end of childhood.

After almost 40 years, my parents are selling their house. My childhood home. The only home I ever knew until leaving for college and starting out on my own. It’s the home where all my memories are from. The place where I brought friends home from school, so we could play dress up in the playhouse in the backyard. It was the place I first learned how to ride a bike, roller skate and put on makeup. It was where I learned that matches hurt if you let them burn down too low, that crayons melt in the heater vents on the floor, that you can slide all the way down the steps on your stomach to save time if you don’t feel like walking. This is where I helped my dad almost build a doll house. This is where I cried over my first crush, where I got ready for my first dance, carved pumpkins, learned to cook and had slumber parties. This is where I learned to drive, had a curfew and late night talks with boys. This is where I proudly brought friends home from choir tours so they could have a restful night at “home” and hot fudge sundaes. This is where Mike nervously asked my dad for my hand in marriage and where I spent my last night before becoming his wife. It is home.

Weiss House

But this period of my life and that of my parent’s life has come to an end. And it’s okay. Actually I was in the party that encouraged them to do so. It’s not as if my parents are settling for anything less than what they’ve known. They have an incredibly gorgeous home in Northern Washington on 10 beautiful acres, complete with 3 ponds, a horse pasture, wine in the making and a forest to get lost in. A grandkids’ paradise. Oh yeah, and a new playhouse that kicks the old playhouse’s butt.

But this past week I’ve been nostalgic. I came up to the Bay Area for the week with Sophia, to help my parents pack. Now, many of you readers have actually been to my parent’s home in Oakland and know that this is no small task. As I have said, my parents have lived there for almost 40 years. My parents, especially my mom, are what you call “collectors”. They have incredible antiques, and more collections than one can count, or would even want to. My mom is an entertainer, and has all the dishes, service wear, linens, and centerpieces to go along with it. This past week has been exhausting, but gratifying. I accomplished a lot. I got to go through memories. I got to throw things away! (Something I’ve always secretly wanted to do ☺) It’s been an emotional time for my parents, who are not only moving their lives, but having to make difficult financial decisions along the way as well. It’s hard to have painters, realtors, stagers and more come in and tell you all the ways that your house is imperfect or not quite right for the cliental who will want to buy it. It slowly starts becoming a building and less and less your home. It slowly starts becoming some one else’s home, even though you don’t know who that might be yet. And that feels weird.

Then there are all those projects that are finally being done, that you just never had the time or money for. Now you get to see them through, for someone else. Oh well.

Having Sophia with me was great. True, she could unpack a box just as quickly as I could pack it. But man, my parent’s house was a paradise for a curious 20 month old. She had a great time exploring. It helped rejuvenate my mom and dad to have her around. Nothing like taking a break from hauling boxes to zerbert a little tummy or help color the boxes in the living room with crayons. I loved watching her explore my old toys, my old haunts. I loved bathing her in the same great bath tub that I used to sit in with my sister Heather as our dad would sit at the doorway singing old 20s songs on his ukelele. I laughed as she discovered the joy of dropping coins through the slots in the railing up stairs just to watch them land on the steps below. I loved watching her climb up on the big couches and chairs and just sit and look at her books while the hustle and bustle went on around her.

I needed this time. I needed to let go, to say goodbye. I needed a chance to sort through life, memories and unnecessary necessities. In saying goodbye I could be excited for what is ahead for my mom and dad, and for my own kids. I’m glad I could have this week with Sophia here in my childhood home, even if I’ll be the only one with the memory of it. I’m excited that she and peanut 2 will have new memories in Washington, of adventure and family. I know that home is where my family is, not just this structure. I love that my family has become more than my mom, dad and siblings. I love that Mike and I have a chance to one day have our own home to help build memories in. That my own children will have to go through all my junk and ask me why I kept it all. I’m excited for all the life there is ahead of us. I can let go of the past 30 years without losing any of the memories. I don’t need the building to help me hang on to those. I don’t need all of my childhood toys or old letters to help me recall the love and compassion that was shared under this roof.

11 thoughts on “The End of Childhood

  1. Karen

    Congrats that your parents are getting to move up there. Your post made me cry though…Maybe because the longest I have lived anywhere is in the house Bobby and I are in right now. I never had that sense of permenence. It is a bittersweet feeling to have to close the chapter on childhood.

  2. michael lee

    I didn’t get wheepy when she read it to me last night. Nope. Not me. I’m not a crier.

    I have a lot of fond memories of that house, although mine are more recent. Every New Years Day, Phil sets up a bunch of TVs in the upstairs room that’s covered with Coke memorabilia, and we watch all the bowl games. There are puzzles and games downstairs in the dining room. People drift in and out all day long, and there’s always the ceremonial cracking of the first beer by Phil at 12:01, (if you drink before noon, you’re an alcoholic).

    I remember my knees shaking when I sat in that same room and asked Phil for his blessing to marry his daughter. We talked for about an hour, and he asked me a lot of questions about my life and where it was heading. He also shared with me his perspective on the things that would be important for Gretchen in any marriage. I was struck by how well he knew his daughter (in talking to the other son-in-laws, they all came out of that talk feeling the same way about his relationship with the daughter they eventually married), and how deeply he cared about their happiness in life.

    There have been only a handful of Christmases in that house, for me, but every one has been memorable. Sandy puts up nativity sets in every room, including bathrooms (and probably closets too, for all I know). The traditions and family liturgy of holidays in that house was filled with meaning, in a way that makes it easy to join in and participate in the sacredness of the moment.

    Phil thinks I’m slightly mentally retarded because, no matter how many times I’ve washed up dishes with him after a meal, I still have no idea where things go in that kitchen. Now, I have to start all over again.

    I’m excited about the new house in Washington. It might sound funny, but in some ways I feel like that house will be more special to those of us who joined the family late, because we get to be part of the memories of that place from the very beginning. I was in the truck the first time that they drove us past it, before they decided to buy it. I got to be part of the planning and discussion of the remodel and addition. I planted the vineyard with Phil and Brian, and my sweat and blood (literally) are in the soil of the place. My first Christmas there was their first Christmas too.

    I’ll miss the old house, in a very different way than my wife does, of course. But I’m also excited for new chapters.

  3. june

    Ok, I think this post is an appropriate one in which to say: I just luuuuve this blog! It’s like the magazine I’ve always wished was out there but have never found…articles on everything from saying goodbye to one’s childhood home to well-written theological fare (Mike, Aly…Aly, where art thou?) to laugh-out-loud essays on any/everything (Chadness)to heart-wrenching insight (Corey) to smarty-pants witticisms (Ash). And there’s even purty pictures.

  4. aly hawkins

    I’m a bit weepy, too. It’s truly the end of an era — and the beginnings of another. The best thing about your folks, Gretchen, is that they will make Home wherever they are. Yeah, place matters — but they take what is so special about the Weiss Family with them everywhere.

    June – sorry about being so out of the loop. I still read every day to keep up with what’s going on with everybody, but haven’t had much time to write. Ash and I have been in a weird, good season of focusing inward to figure out what is next for us, way-of-life/way-of-ministry wise, and we’ve had to cut out a lot of “outward” energy and activities to do so. I’ll probably post about it soon, but right now we’re trying to tend the baby birds of our future, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for flights of fancy! We’d both appreciate everyone’s prayers as we screw up our courage to step into what’s around the corner. (Umm…lots of mixed metaphors, anyone? With mayo and pickles?)

  5. Paul

    I got teary-eyed reading this post aloud to Teri (Grammy) as we drove home from a wondferful week at June Lake (see our response to Mike’s “100 Things…” post. You are an excellent writer, and this should be published somewhere. And, it sounds like your folks were wonderful parents. This is a sweet tribute to them.

  6. Morphea

    Lovely, Gretchen. And as the only Washingtonian on this blog (I think), can I ask that at least one of those new WA adventures include hanging out at the zoo with Crazy Cerise?

    Cerise

  7. Morphea

    Ooh, or touring the lavender farms in Sequim? (pronounced “Skwim” – this’ll be important for you parentals to know)

    [giggle]

  8. Cliff

    Gretchen,

    Beautifully written. I am glad that you had the chance to say good-bye that way. My parents moved out of the old homestead a couple years ago, and I didn’t really take the opportunity to do that. I was too wrapped up in the details to spend the time being aware of this big change that was happening. Better late than never, I guess — thanks for the reminder.

    I want to echo June’s comment on the wonderful writing here. I would never have believed that I could come to so enjoy the company of people I have never even met! Thanks for inviting us all in.

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