Monday, June 1, 2009

The Place Where We Were a Family

This week the “For Sale” sign went up in our front yard. A small caveat, “Coming Soon!”, warned folks we aren’t quite ready for prime time and looky-lou’s. What a bittersweet time this is. My son is home from college, leaving half-empty bottles of Gatorade around the house, getting calls at all hours, and constantly asking what there is to eat. My husband is distracted by phone calls from real estate agents, vendors, music institutes, and would-be employees. My sisters phone me with news about my mother’s tests, indicating she has cancer of her lungs, and how we are in a holding pattern until the doctors test her (some more) to decide how to proceed. I sit for hours winnowing through boxes of old documents, speeches I wrote for the executives of Diamond-Star Motors, ad copy I created, ad campaigns and focus groups that I ran, and bits of books and articles which never went anywhere.

On Saturday, David and I finished cleaning our newly remodeled garage. First I photographed the growth chart we made with black marker on one wall. We used that space to note Michael’s first bubble with bubblegum, the one and only baseball game his team won, and finally, “College Bound” which we stopped the car to add the day we set off to take him to school. Grumbling, he agreed to be pulled from the backseat, to stand against the wall, and to be measured against other years’ growth.

The next occupants of this house will find a freshly re-done garage, now insulated, dry-walled and with a painted floor. Plus a new built-in set of shelves. But no growth chart.

And of course, our house will soon be nearly empty of clutter. We tossed enough stuff to fill our SUV twice with items to take to Goodwill. I rummaged through my son’s old Beanie Babies, his crib bumper, and a doll that belonged to my mother. Those things I kept.

When the garage was done, we moved to work in our basement. We have 4,200 feet of livable space, with a lower level walk-out. On this walk-out level are three rooms: my office, a spare bedroom/storage area, a big screen tv viewing room, plus a large open area that used to have a pingpong table, weight set, pool table and pinball game. I worked my way through old storage boxes, looking sadly at Michael’s fingerpainting efforts, his cards to me saying “Mom, I love you more than Dad does!” and photos of pet chameleons which never lived long. We found an old jewelry box that belonged to David’s mother. I insisted that rather than dump the contents we stop and take it to a jeweler. We did. Good thing. There was an old garnet pin inside, which easily could have been taken for costume jewelry. David also unearthed a beautiful strand of pearls, larger and creamier than the one he bought me years ago.

So far we’ve replaced our roof, added bigger gutters, painted the front door, tiled two areas formerly linoleum covered, cleaned the carpets, had paint dings fixed, replaced the old laundry sink I hated with a sink/cabinet combo. I took a break while writing this for David to pull three ticks off of me. Ticks I am sure found me yesterday while we were planting lemon yellow marigolds and red salvia around our mailbox. Or while I planted the window boxes that sit merrily on the banisters of our deck.

About the time I planned to take a break and write, the real estate agent called. She had a young couple who were driving around and asked to see our house. The couple has three kids. David, Michael and I played “beat the clock” finishing up getting the house presentable.

As the couple walked through, I had to restrain myself. I wanted to tell them, “You think this is just a house, but it isn’t. It’s a place where a happy family has lived. A place where we raised my son. Where we laughed and loved and played together. It could be happy for your family, too.”

But I didn’t.


Monica Ferris said...

Oh, such a LOT of changes you're facing right now! I hope you are finding the support you need to get through -- because everyone in your family is facing some big changes as well. Bet strong, because all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

Terri Thayer said...

Joanna - so much going on. Best wishes for your mom. It's hard letting go of a home, but so much waits for up ahead. Be sure to find some time to scrapbook or write. Be good to yourself.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Never has a woman been so blessed to have such wonderful blog sisters. Much love and thanks to you both.

I'm trying to take care of myself, but I must admit I am awfully teary these days.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Hugs, Joanna. I admire your courage with all of this going on. So much to deal with! All the very best to you and the rest of your family, especially your mom.

Camille Minichino said...

It's all been said -- be good to yourself and to each other and make a list of the great things you're looking forward to.

Is it fair to do a scrapbook page of the future???

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Thanks, Linda. At least, I have two portable friends--Vicky and Rafferty. It's good to know my dogs will be coming with.

Camille, yes, I could do that, but I think I'll take photos of every nook and cranny of this house so we can remember it. I have a photo of the growth chart on the wall. I'll try to dig it up and post that.

Betty Hechtman said...

I'll repeat what Monica and Terri said. Joanna, you're going through a lot of emotional things right now. Take some time to be good to yourself.

I so understand all your feelings connected with your house. I always think of a house or apartment being filled with traces of memories. When I go to Chicago and sit in the apartment I grew up in, it's like overlays of memories pass before my eyes. The first day we got the keys and I claimed my room which I loved. My wedding. So many people showed up, you couldn't get back to the dining room. The day I left to drive cross country to my new home in L.A....

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Betty, you are so right. It's not this house, although it's lovely and spacious. It's the memories. For my husband, it's just his business. For me, it's both my home and my office. is about change. I've always enjoyed new challenges. Surely it can't be as hard as living in England for just one year--and so many of you, so many of my wonderful friends, are available through email that it's not like the old days when you'd wait and wait for a letter. (Still love those letters, but geez.)

Besides, all my mysterious girlfriends will be coming to Malice next year, and I plan to have you over to our house!