I have moved every 2 years since I was 17.
Whether I’ve been happy somewhere or whether it was time to move on and that meant moving out, two years just seems to be the unspoken contract that I have with an address.
The sweet space that we moved from recently (and where Cap and I ended up with our little family) was never actually meant to be a home. It was a work/live studio for me to stop commuting into the city at odd hours, and a place for my business to thrive — but after a while I took root there. I loved every tiny square foot it could offer and in return it furnished my life. Cap and I often daydreamed about adding on modular rooms somehow. We didn’t want to leave, but after 2 years, a large fur baby, my active 5 year old , and a new peanut who would be crawling soon, we all knew it was time to go.
When my parents offered us a rental opportunity, I jumped. Ok. That’s not quite true. I dragged my feet and hemmed and hawed. It’s not because I wasn’t excited with the fortuitous alignment, it was because the house that was now available to us to rent was the house where I grew up.
“Like actually where you grew up? The same rooms? That’s so awesome!”
Except that I had an intense fear that I would move our belongings in and all of a sudden it would look wrong or out of place. Like somehow my furniture would be rejected by the expanse of floor and wall based on the sheer volume of history I had with it.
“You’ll make it yours.” Said my mom encouragingly, but even as we moved the last box in from the cold and the door closed making it officially ours, I couldn’t quite re-imagine where to put things. I instinctively started unpacking groceries into the spaces they had occupied 20 years ago.
There were so many memories. There are. As I look around the past and present merge into some kind of coexisting tense that gnaws at my grammatical reason.
Over there in the hall I got a sliver once, a really bad one, because I was barefoot and running on the floorboards. They were unfinished during my dad’s never ending renovations, and scraps of carpet lay scattered like lilly pads marking our paths to the bathroom and back. Now my dog is stretching languidly there, his dark coat camouflaging with the perfect chestnut finish of the hard wood.
In the living room where I am sitting now with my son, our family would collapse on the broadloom and bask in the light of the Christmas tree, listening to the pop and hiss of a burning log in the fire place. I remember making wishes in this room. I remember sitting with my grandparents on my parents’ blue couches, sometimes eager to hear their stories, sometimes hearing only the excited rumble of unanchored teenage plans in my own head. I’d nod and smile, half a world away.
The kitchen stools still scrape across the floor tiles making the same pleasantly grating chorus. That sound meant my dad would be drinking a coffee, perched at the island with a knife-sharpened pencil in one hand; exotic looking blue-prints for some new renovation or project scratched nonchalantly into whatever paper happened to be around. Now it means that my daughter is asking for a snack.
I still know the sound of a hand gripping the railing to the second floor; the gentle squeak of a damp palm sliding upward as we run upstairs; the crackle of each step rippling outward with every footfall. I keep looking to see if my sister is coming into my room, but it’s Cap and he’s wondering why I am smiling a little sadly.
It’s the same house. Exactly the same. Isn’t it?
The kids’ room is a mess but I remember when it was my sister’s. I used to sit quietly, marvelling at the treasures of teenage maturity: a bottle of concealer that smelled like Noxzema; a fancy looking stereo with a record player built in; a makeup mirror with filters to check your face in all kinds of lighting; the smell of perfume on a floral viscose scarf; lipstick from the Clinique bonus bag. I want to drink in the aura of all this magic big sister ‘stuff’ and find myself still hungrily searching for it as I put away onsesies and socks for little feet.
It’s the same in our bedroom, which used to be my parents’ room way back when. For a long time that’s where the only TV in the house was. We’d pile onto the big bed and watch whatever was on. Mutiny on the Bounty, James Bond marathons, Star Trek, Dallas, Miami Vice, Tour of Duty. Now it’s my big bed and my family, and we’re usually binge-watching one of our shows on Netflix but other than that nothing much has changed.
The creaks and groans of the walls —the very pleasing wild sound of the air here —has made me think so much about the humanity of the mom and dad that I thought were simply unflappable. I spend a lot of time thinking about how they felt when they were my age. I wonder if they were driven by unerring senses of purpose, or whether they feel the same raw, push-pull as I do now between life goals. I wonder if they ever once faltered, cried out in frustration, or pressed on when it felt like nothing was going right. And of course they did. But somehow it feels strange to think that they may have shed similar tears as I have, in these very rooms. That they too stayed up listening for the soft nocturnal coos of their children having bad dreams. That they may have clashed and made up about things that I now understand beyond the rumblings of adult voices from the next room.
Oh, the fights.
There were —like there are in every house— fights about everything. I remember feeling out of control and powerless as a 17 year old in these rooms. I remember yelling matches, and slamming doors. Yes. Those doors. That door. The one that my 5 year old just dramatically closed. Sigh.
But I also remember unmatched love and sacrifice, and good fights. I remember my dad fighting and beating cancer here. I remember a family fighting to stay together, to stay involved, to stay grounded and safe no matter what adventures we embarked on.
I remember listening to a Frank Sinatra and Count Basie album —a favourite you’d find on our record player all the time. I can still hear it, especially now as I see the light warming the walls. All of a sudden I’m not sure when I am.
“Out of the tree of life I’ve picked me a plummmm…” croons Frankie.
My dad, in a fluid motion, takes my mum’s hand and they start a smooth two-step across the living room.
“…You came along and everything’s starting to hummmm…”
She laughs charmingly but takes his lead. I decide to stall on clearing the dinner plates because this is the kind of cool stuff that happens around here —this is the romantic stuff I live for.
And I’m 10, and I’m 15, and I’m 37.
And I’m lucky.
And I’m home.