The Places We Become


The other day I spent my lunch over at our old house to take a few pictures and soak up the old place before it was staged for sale. I had decided that once staged it would no longer be ours, and it would be more difficult to imagine the life we once lived there. But as I walked around the house it became clear to me that it had already become a separate place, no longer mine or our family’s. It had become just a house – walls, paint, windows, doors, empty closets, a roof, grass, wood floors. A frame and nothing more.

I was even more detached than in recent weeks but I still felt sad. All part of the transition process I’m sure. What also came to mind is that houses, when they are homes complete with families inside, are the central frames of experience and time in our lives. They are central to our daily existence, not matter what form they take.

We wake up in them, walk down the hall and make coffee.

We prepare breakfast for hungry kids and somehow manage to get them dressed for school or play.

We garden, clean house, move our stuff around, groom the dog, clean the pots after cooking dinner.

We play in the sunshine of the driveway next to the planter box, ripe with spring vegetables.

We relax with a glass of wine, unwind after hectic days.

We prepare meals that feed our souls and our tummies, or eat ice cream on the couch watching Mad Men or Dancing with the Stars or on-demand Caillou.

We have family and friends over for holidays or any days.

Toys everywhere, books everywhere, stuff everywhere.

Walks down the street for coffee, kids hot chocolate, yet another meal at Cactus, stroller ride to the park, walk the dog around the block.

We live our lives coming home almost daily to this frame the surrounds us, comforts us, protects us. Patterns of footprints through the house like patterns of daily time. Through this experience we become this place. We cannot so easily just pick up and move on. So much of who we are has been framed by this place.

Inside this house used to be the marker-stained couch where we read so many books to our kids. The crappy, slowly disintegrating rug where our dog slept nightly. The train table, always a mess but a hub of toddler busyness. The kitchen table with so many meals and daily-catching-up shared. The porch that could have been a paid stroller parking lot. The cramped pantry that took a submarine captain’s ability to navigate. The off-kilter side gate, the beautiful Craftsman driveway gate. The native grasses, flowers, blueberries gobbled up in hours by kids, the one-season Persimmon tree. The lack of storage. The quiet, light-filled upstairs retreat. The odd-shaped bedrooms practically filled to capacity just with beds. The cold winter floors, the stuffy heat of Indian summer. The pain-in-the-ass double-hung windows. The hallway that only seemed to amplify the sound of crying babies. The window sill where our son stored his rocks and twigs. The basement wine cellar. The garage filled with the material evidence of almost a decade of life changes. The side door lock that never had a key. The empty dirt where the kayaks used to lay. The snails who could never compete with a toddler’s shoe. The large windows and overhangs and poorly placed cable TV wires. The hand-picked dining room chandelier that we agreed should stay with the house. The coffee table/kids activity center. The shelves and books and stuff. The meandering driveway path fill with hard-to-walk-on pebbles.

Today, 943 sits empty, waiting for a random couch, random chair, random beds and lamps and tables and vases of flowers where a normal (real) family would not put them. All staged to tempt and tease the next generation to live there. Soon, it will frame another life and they will become that place.

3 Responses to “The Places We Become”

  1. 1 Rebecca

    The end of an era….

  2. 2 dbs

    Such evocative images and writing. Thank you, Andrew.

  3. 3 Tina

    Nice nostalgia and photos with impact. Good job.

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