When I was two years old, my parents bought a corner-lot house in northern NJ for $60K. Our town was suburban bordering on rural; we'd buy our dairy products, eggs and such from Lone Pine Dairy, and we'd buy our veggies in the summertime from the one-armed guy on Hanover Road. We kids played kickball in the street, built snow forts out of the mounds the plows had made, we walked around town without fear of being kidnapped, and we rode our bikes without helmets and crash padding. On select summer nights, the neighborhood kids would get together to play Man Hunt (hide and seek in the dark, with teams). Our families let us throw toilet paper and shaving cream around the neighborhood on Mischief Night. I had the textbook definition of the awesome suburban childhood, and for that I am impossibly grateful.
Up until just a few months ago, my mom was the foreign language teacher in our public Middle School. Everyone knew our house, and the Knapp Family Kitchen was where my friends and family would hang out. Sometimes when friends would come over to pick me up to go out, instead of leaving the house right away, we'd settle into the kitchen drinking iced tea and we'd never get around to actually departing. My friends dug my parents, and my parents dug my friends. Heck, sometimes my friends would visit my folks even when they knew I wasn't around. That's an awesome feeling.
My room in that house was the best -- I painted it this pale yellow and, with my friend Patty, painted the melody to The Stranger around the room. It looks awesome.
I went away to college in the Fall of 1989, though I didn't go geographically very far. About 3/4 the way through my many years of college I moved back home-- my college fund ran out, and I was student-teaching anyway, so it was easier to have access to home-stuff during that time. I moved to Arizona in 1995, and I liked coming home and snuggling in my old room. It hadn't changed much since 1989, and I always felt a sense of comfort going back there. I could be 18 again sitting among my posters of The Beatles, Billy Joel, Fred and Ginger, classic cars, Playbills, memorabelia from the bands I've been in, and old B&W photos I snapped along the way.
The house itself is very pretty, and I was always proud to bring people over there. Since my brother and I moved out so long ago, admittedly it's fallen into minor cosmetic disrepair. It's nothing that a week or two of elbow-grease and some paint couldn't easily remedy, but as these things happen, the task gets more daunting the longer they let things go.
A bit flipped in my folks' collective head a few months ago and they decided it was time to leave our town behind. My mom retired after a 30+ year teaching career, and my dad was run down from watching his beloved town get overtaken with condos, McMansions and strip malls until there is now (literally) not a single acre of undeveloped land left... that's the NJ way. They went house hunting up in northwestern NJ (close to the PA border) and found a house they loved on six acres, but were ultimately outbid. They're continuing to look and are confident they'll find something just as lovely. I'm very excited for them, because it's really cool seeing them get excited about something together.
All this talk of moving, however, means that the house I grew up in is going away soon. My refuge will no longer be there, and I'll have to be responsible to make my own refuge somewhere else. This is hard for me, considering I don't feel rooted anywhere. I still call northern NJ "home" even though I haven't lived there in 12 years.
The thought of going through my room, paper by paper, poster by poster... through all the notes and letters I received in college, through all the photos, yearbooks, prom dresses, playbills, mix tapes, LPs, 45s... it staggers me. And the attic! Good heavens, I don't even want to think about what is in that attic... stuffed animals of unfathomable sentimental value but of no other worth, really; books, toys, magazines, beautiful things from my grandparents that were intended to be given to me for when I get married (yep, right-o). The problem is, my apartment is so small, and storage space so completely maxxed out that I cannot store these things in my apartment. This means that they will need to be tossed out, which kills me. But why not toss them? I haven't thought about or seen these things in decades. Why do I care, all of a sudden? It's not like they're even in eBay-able condition.
I take pride in that I live sparsely; I try to be resourceful with the things I have, and I try not to be tied to material things. I like knowing that if I need to move, I can do so relatively quickly since so few of my posessions are truly irreplaceable.
When I was very small, I believed that inanimate objects had feelings, and I never wanted anything to feel cast-off or unimportant. After I'd peeled the wrapper off a crayon to expose more coloring tip, I'd have to find a nice house for the wrappings so they wouldn't feel sad that I was throwing them away. Eventually I grew out of that, but there is still some underlying current way deep down that tells me that everything has some kind of worth and that it deserves respect. (This paper deserves respect, because the tree it came from worked really hard to grow, and the least we can do is thank the tree before tossing it into the recycle bin.) You'd think this would have turned me into a pack-rat, but it hasn't. Well, at least not in my own home, anyway. :-)
So, to make a long story short, this is the weekend that I give thanks for all the blessings I have in my life; my family, my friends, my upbringing, my brains, my health, my skills, my values. And it's also the weekend that I re-define myself as an adult, casting off the nouns of the past that just weigh me down, and emerge a lighter, more free person.
Rock on. I think I'm ready.