I wrote this essay a few years ago after my parents sold their home.
by Christina Friedrichsen
I walked into my old bedroom for the last time today. The broccoli green carpet was still as hideous as it had always been. Mysterious, subtle stains, that no amount of scrubbing could remove, still marked its soft surface as they had for years.
Built-in shelves that were once stacked with books, teddy bears, pictures of friends and family, were as barren as they were when we first moved in. Soon they would be filled with someone else’s things.
As a teenager, this bedroom was my world. We moved in when I was 12, and I still slept soundly within its walls well into my twenties.
Even though it had been four years since I had moved out, I felt like the bedroom was still mine, and would always be.
Within those pink walls, my adolescence was played out. The ups and downs of puberty. The belly laughs. The big, heavy tears of heartbreak. The whispers, kept from mom and dad. The music blaring distortedly after school from a $99 ghetto blaster.
My early twenties unfolded there too. The university years. Graduation. My first real job. But it wasn’t just my bedroom that held special meaning to me: every room in the house was a library of memories. And some of those memories were still being made.
My husband and I, who live only a half an hour away, visited my parents’ home often. It was the place where the family gathered during holidays and special occasions. The place for turkey dinners with all the fixings, and George Winston on a snowy night. Eggnog and rum cake, around a crackling fire. New Year’s Eve kazoos with my nieces and nephew.
But now there was a sold sign on the lawn.
My parents, tired of the responsibilities of home-ownership, felt it was time to downsize and move into an apartment. I supported their decision. Entirely.
“It will be a great change for both of you,” I said. “You’ll have a lot more freedom.”
And I meant it.
I was happy for them. They wouldn’t have to worry about fixing things anymore. They wouldn’t have to cut the lawn, or find someone to shovel their driveway.
I was glad they could finally have the freedom, the finances, to travel and have fun times with each other. They worked hard to raise four kids, and deserved some time for themselves.
I eagerly helped my mother wrap dishes from her china cabinet into crumpled newspaper. I helped her get rid of furniture she no longer wanted. My husband and I transported boxes of their belongings to the new apartment. We drove home with things they no longer needed. A ladder, wheelbarrow, rakes, and shovels for the garden.
“We won’t need these anymore,” said my dad, bright-eyed with the energy of the move.
Every time we loaded up the car, I felt more and more detached. These weren’t my parents’ things. This wasn’t the family home they had just sold.
As the closing date grew near, I grew more and more anxious.
I even called my mom one day, complaining of shortness of breath.
“I’m feeling really anxious today,” I told her.
I didn’t tell her the reason for my anxiety. I didn’t tell her that I had been thinking about how strange it was going to be to drive past the old house, only to see an unfamiliar car in the driveway. Or how funny I was going to feel, knowing somebody else was eating in our dining room. Sleeping in my old bedroom.
After days of moping, I decided I needed closure, so I headed to the homestead for my final adieu.
As my mother was packing up the last of the boxes, I snuck off to my old bedroom to pay my final respects.
It was empty now. The closet was hollow, the shelves were bare. But the memories still flooded in.
I remembered Christmas lights. The way I’d string them around the mirror in December. I thought of how my friends and I would sit cross-legged on the bedroom floor, our faces glowing in the multi-coloured light, talking about cute boys and teachers we couldn’t stand.
I remembered the scent of cologne on the sweaters of boyfriends. Love letters, hidden in drawers. Postcards from friends that moved away. The smell of linseed oil on my paintbrush. Textbooks, clothes, scattered recklessly on the floor during exams. Dad consoling me after break-ups. Mom calling me for dinner.
Tomorrow, someone else will be standing in this room, envisioning different colours on the walls. New curtains. New carpet. Perhaps a coat of paint on the built-in shelves.
But in my mind, my bedroom will always remain the same. The carpet will always be an ungodly shade of green. And the honey-brown shelves will remain cluttered with good books and photographs of smiling loved ones.
Strung around the mirror, there will be Christmas lights. And they will be colourful. Just like my memories.