I went home this weekend to celebrate Christmas with my family. I had a great time, as usual. It was the last of my Christmas festivities and hopefully now the end of the feasting ( my sister makes this crab meat dip that I can’t resist. Others politely dab a little onto a cracker while I sit in front of it with a ladle. Really it’s time to stop the food orgy.) My niece and my daughters were huddled together most of the time and I am very happy that, despite their age difference, they are growing very close. Martha and my brother-in-law debated all the latest Yankees acquisitions. And we celebrated my mom’s 85th birthday. Family at its finest.
Home. I keep thinking about the meaning of that word. My mother’s house is now a four hour drive for me, if I can get through New York City without hitting too much traffic. I moved to that house when I was 4 and left it when I was 18 to go to college and then went out to live on my own. I have lived in other places much, much longer than I ever lived there, yet it is the place I think of when I think of home.
This weekend my mom was once again talking about moving into an assisted living facility. The maintenance of a split level house and yard are getting too much for her. Casually I said to my sister that this might be the last time I would ever be in the house we grew up in. And so we sat up in bedroom and strolled down memory lane. We talked about how the room used to be decorated with Beatles’ posters, her half Paul, my half George. About the time she had her boyfriend over when my mom and I unexpectantly returned home and he wound up hiding in our closet for four hours until I could get my mother back out of the house. About how we used to smoke, hanging out the window so the room wouldn’t smell. If you go outside, you can still see the burn marks under the window sill from where we put the cigarettes out. We talked about how no matter how much my mother vacuumed, the floors were always sandy because we wouldn’t hose off our feet when we came in from the beach. And we remembered how often our mother would yell about that. (My sister can bring me to tears mimicking my mom yelling.) We talked about when we were little we always watched Friday night TV as a family and dad would make us root beer floats and junk food (thus starting a life long habit for me). For hours we talked, remember when this, remember when that . . . We talked. We laughed. We got a little misty.
I am a sentimentalist through and through. I only lived 14 years in that house but I seem to have a whole lifetime of memories there. I know that home is where the heart is and all that. But that house will always be home to me. I just don’t know how it will feel to no longer have a key.