The time for departure draws near.
The moving guys are scheduled to show up Monday to pack up. Tuesday we’ll load the truck. I’ll clean up a few loose ends, and then expect to be on the road heading toward Arizona sometime Wednesday. I am ready to go.
I was thirty-two years old when we bought this house, though since the builder was still putting it together when we signed away pretty much all of our savings it was only about half a house. This meant I had to keep making the 45-minute commute from Indy for a couple months before we moved in. I remember I would stop by the land pretty much every evening just to watch the place go up. I was here before the drywall went in. Before the stairs were installed. I saw it before it became a home. You can say, I suppose, that I saw this house’s bones. Pre-soul, as it were. It was November and December. I remember walking through the floor plan in the cold, picking my way through the open studs like I was edging through a tight forest of bare board. My footsteps echoed on hollow flooring, my breath billowed about me. When I see it in my memories it feels edgy somehow.
Those days don’t seem like very long ago.
I’ve been alone in the house for the past two weeks. This is because Lisa is already in Arizona, managing some work on the new place while I deal with the final process of disconnecting our lives from this one.
We’re downsizing. At that stage where we just don’t need so much stuff.
So over the past two months I’ve made a gazillion trips to Sans Souci (enough that the workers there got to calling me “the little red car guy” and would wave when I left, and call out “see you tomorrow!”). I’ve sold off a healthy collection of our furniture. Food has gone to the food bank. Some stuff has been trashed, a bunch more recycled. A big TV went to the local shelter for victims of domestic violence, as have several old cell phones. I’ve decommissioned an embarrassing number of computers. (11 machines for two people? Seriously?) The couch and a coffee table went to a used furniture store. Several pieces of furniture have gone to folks who paid pennies on the dollar for them (which I’m 100% fine with…we don’t need them, and we would rather someone get a great deal rather than have it go to waste). Painting is finished, as are the repairs (except that there’s always something left to do, right?)
It’s a remarkable thing to see all your stuff slowly leave the house. It’s like losing weight. You work your butt off, but at first you don’t really notice any difference. Then it suddenly gets to the point where every day something else is gone, and pretty soon you start to look around and the place is looking thinner and more open. The family room gapes, and the dining room seems three times bigger. Your basement office echoes.
So tonight I’m sitting here, essentially ready to go.
The back door is open. The night is getting chilly, and I can smell the after-effects of this afternoon’s rain. The sky is darkening. I’ve got a baseball game playing on the television. The Reds and the Cardinals are together but heading different directions.
I’ve found that for the past day or two my mind has been going back to the time when I was visiting this place every day. Just me. In the afternoon or evening gloaming, often similar to the sky outside now. I remember this sense of wonder the ground had back then, a sense of excitement. Maybe confidence? Our time in Columbus was just starting.
It’s been a beautiful city for us, really. Columbus has. It’s stuck in the mid-west and so it’s full of mid-western values—which are pragmatic and frustrating and amazing and staunch and sometimes given with begrudging tolerance and sometimes not so much. Columbus is small, but big. It’s comfortable. It’s diverse except for when it’s not. It’s full of smart people. It’s been a great place for us to be a family.
We lived in this house, which was built between farmland and a children’s park (the farmland was later developed, the park remains), and that now is so empty. How empty, you ask? Well, I have only a few places to sit. A couple stools, and a computer chair downstairs. That’s it. Oh, and our patio furniture. I can go out there and sit down, too.
So I expect I’ll go through much of the weekend standing. [grin]
I could reel off specific moments that happened here, but I won’t. They wouldn’t mean anything to you, so I’ll not bore you any more than I have. All I’ll say is that Brigid grew up in this place. I became a writer here. Lisa ran her business out of the basement of this house. We had cats.
When we came here, we had no idea this city and this house would become the place we will probably always think of when someone asks us where we’re from.
Then again, what does “from” really mean?
I was actually born in Arizona, after all. But until now I considered myself “from” Louisville. Yet, Columbus—and this house—has been our home. So I wonder what I’ll say when people ask where I’m from. I don’t know what I’ll say, really. I’m fifty-four years old now. Not thirty-two. So I all I can say is that I know a lot less than I once thought I did.
All I say with great certainty is that I’ll miss the place.
I’m writing this while standing here in my nearly empty living room. I have turned off the TV sound and I can hear crickets singing outside. From the road in front of the house, the solitary sound of a single set of tires grind on pavement. The refrigerator hums along. Air flows in the vents.
If I close my eyes and let my senses go I can hear the house moving. Its framework emits a thread of silence that feels like an electric field hovering just close enough to my consciousness to raise the hair on my arms and on the back of my neck. It’s whispering, I think. The house is talking to me. Saying goodbye, maybe. If I open my mind I can feel the wood of the house’s structure standing upright and firm. If I close my eyes I can picture myself walking through its walls back in the time when those struts were nothing but two-by-fours open to the world. I remember them. I remember the sensations that lay in those beams, the feeling of grain rough against the skin of my palm.
It was a feeling of anticipation, a feeling of the future.
It’s the same sense I get when I think of putting my behind into my car and pointing the front wheels to the west, out to Arizona where I’ll get to meet up once again with my parents, and with the love of my life—who I miss right now more than I can ever, ever, ever possibly convey. It’s the same sense I get when I hang up from a conversation with Brigid (like I did earlier in the day).
What will I say the next time someone asks me where I’m from?
That’s a real question that I’m sitting here grappling with.
People mean something specific when they ask it. Maybe I’ll say Louisville, and maybe I’ll say Columbus. Both of them work. I’ve loved being from both places.
But if I have grown to understand anything from being alone in this house for the last two weeks, it is this:
If I’m thinking right, when someone asks where I’m from I’ll tell them that I’m from my mom and my dad, who I’m so terribly excited about seeing again. And maybe I’ll say that I’m from my brother, who formed my early years—and from some friends. But if I’m thinking with an even more true read, and if I’m willing to sound perhaps a bit smooshy, I’ll say that I’m from Brigid (who, by merely existing and being who she is, probably changed me more than anyone else ever could). Then I’ll point to Lisa, and I’ll tell them I’m from her—that she is the one person who has made me who I am, and who, for me, is the person who changes a house into a home, wherever the heck that happens to be.
I loved this house, you see. But a house is just a house. And this house isn’t empty because it’s running short of furniture.
Yes. The time for departure draws near.
I’m looking forward to going home.