The train whistle is familiar but muted as we glide along the tracks in New England from Penn Station in New York to my family home in Vermont. I go for the last time to visit the house I grew up in. My parents are thinking of selling it and I am headed out of the country, so I want to see the walls that kept childhood memories intact for all my return visits my whole adult life, one last time.
It is a relic of the past, walls with heights of growing children marked and preserved by the pantry door in Mom’s kitchen. Squeaks I had memorized during my teenage years sneaking up and down the stairway are there, unchanged. Closets I hid in as a child, the tree in the backyard that contained not just a tree-house, but a double-decker fortress, until a neighbor friend of one of my brothers fell out and broke his arm. My father had to tear it down.
My youngest sister, now seventeen, is almost as old as I was setting out for college in Florida. Things have changed. There is no more need for so many spare rooms. We all have lives too busy to occupy this rambling library of family memories more than once or twice a year, if that. The heating in that old house, first constructed in 1890’s is more than just a pinch now in this tight economy.
There are a million reasons to sell, my parents getting older and wiser, do not want the constant upkeep, the street is becoming rental. So many good reasons to move on, but I don’t want to. I have given up my own four walls and everything that lies between them almost every other year now, moving to new parts of the world, the west and now back east, further, maybe to India.
I feel safe in doing so because I know this house will always be the same, a home and hearth with hearty cooking and wood burning in the fireplace. The pop of sparks and rise and falls of many heated words with a football game in the background or some Disney movie for the little ones;
Many a Christmas tree has seen this living room. Hardwood floors and white painted twentieth century banisters and trim added a touch of class to any kind of wallpaper that found its way to the walls. An elegant lived-in country theme was never by decorator design but always embraced and welcomed who walked through the door. Overstuffed couches, too many pictures on the walls and a wrap-around porch with bright colored kid’s toys and a giant plastic nativity on the roof greeted each returning family member every winter for more than twenty years, as they will greet me one last time.
It has been a long time coming, and cannot be put off forever, the changing dynamics of our family will keep us vibrant and young at heart. New generations will add depth to family reunions and holidays, but it will never be the same without 5 Spellman Terrace. Financially speaking, it makes the most sense. We are just keeping up with the times.