I made the mistake of driving past my parents' house the other day.
Actually it's not owned by my parents. They sold it. They don't live there any more. But my car just instinctively drove down their old street. It was like I wasn't even controlling the car. As soon as I got in front of the house and saw the strange, unfamiliar vehicles in the drive-way, my first reaction was "who's car is--"
A weird feeling washed over me. There are strangers living in my house. There are strangers walking all over my memories. There are strangers sleeping in my parents' room.
I wasn't upset when my parents told me they were moving. Or when they put the house up for sale. Or when they packed up or sold all their furniture and belongings. I wasn't sad when they drove their moving truck down to Florida to close on their new condo and move some of their furniture into it. But just driving past the house in which I used to live made me super emotional. But why? I'm happy for my parents. They deserve this new stage in their lives. They've earned it. Why am I so upset?
Well, there's the living room. My brother and I used to practice wrestling moves on that carpet when we were little. We would jump off the couches like they were turnbuckles. I still remember when the walls were orange. I remember moving the kitchen chairs into the livingroom when my mom would wash the kitchen floor. I would set up the chairs in front of the television like they were seats in a car: Two in front, two in back. I would sit in the "driver's seat" and pretend I was at the drive-in. Of course this drive-in always showed Sesame Street.
The kitchen was that one place where my family would always get together. No matter where we were and no matter what we were doing, we always met at that table for dinner. My friends would make fun of me because i needed to be home for dinner. And to be honest, it annoyed me. Why couldn't I just eat at my friend's house? Or later? Of course I get it all now. And it wasn't always just us four around that table. Sometimes my friend Mike would join us. My parents knew he didn't have the best home life. And to this day, he still remembers all the meals he ate in my parents' kitchen.
But now someone else is eating in that kitchen. Someone else is sitting in that living room. And they are parking their car in the garage that my father and grandfather built. They built it with their own hands. They cut the wood and measured the space and put it all together. From scratch. That might not mean anything to you, but it seems like a miracle to me. They made something that never fell down and never needed any major work for over twenty years. It wasn't some pre-made, pre-assembled make-shift garage. And these strangers are just taking it for granted.
You're welcome, strangers.
They'll mow the grass and they won't know anything about all the summers of playing Freeze Tag and TV Tag in the back yard. They'll know nothing about all the snow ball fights my neighbors and I had. All the games of Whiffle Ball we played mean nothing to them. (And that old maid who wouldn't let us get our ball back when by some miracle one of us hit a home run.) These strangers don't know about any of that.
And why should they? They're strangers. Strangers living in my house. Strangers walking and painting and recarpeting all over my memories. Strangers making their own memories at that house.