PART ONE: THE DEAR OLD HOUSE THAT I GREW UP IN
My parents are in the process of selling their house, so over Easter I went down to the Gold Coast to help move around some furniture, pick up the boxes of spare books I had stored there, and make some executive decisions about stuff like old books/games/toys that were shoved into the wardrobe of my old bedroom and never really looked at after I left.
When we were done, my mother mentioned that it may well be the last time I ever visit them there. At the time, I didn’t think that was a big deal. We moved into the house when I was twelve. I’d moved out by the time I was twenty-two. I’ve spent two thirds of my life living in places that were not that house. For the last third of my life, it’s actually been in a city I like, as opposed to my thoroughly problematic relationship with the Gold Coast.
I packed my books into the car, had dinner with my parents, and headed home, feeling pretty good about avoiding the potential nostalgia and angst inherent in the situation.
Then Amanda Palmer’s Dear Old House That I Grew Up In came on the stereo while I was driving and I ended up pulling the car over to the side of the road and bawling for a couple of minutes.
‘Cause, really, yes. All of that. Let’s be realistic – I’m a hoarder of memories. I got weepy when I had to sell of my first car. I moved around enough as a kid that I get attached to certain touchstones that seem permanent, even if they aren’t: certain books, certain toys, certain cars, certain houses. I have no problem getting rid of stuff, so long as it doesn’t have memories attached, and that decade I spent at my parents soon to be ex-house is about three times longer than I’ve typically lived anywhere.
PART TWO: THE APARTMENT I HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO BE AN ADULT IN NOW
My parents decision to move corresponds with me being in my own apartment – as in, an apartment I actually own rather than rent – for nearly a year. A place that is shiny and new and has never been inhabited by anyone other than me. A place that’s largely devoid of memories, except for those that I put in here, and it has to be said that I’m not really the memory-putter-inner type. I go do stuff at other people’s houses these days, rather than do things here.
The apartment is just a place I come to sleep, read, and type things into a computer. It’s where I store my books, and even then it doesn’t really feel like that, since the vast majority of my book collection is going to end up stored in boxes under my bed and in my wardrobe. It’s not a place I feel compelled to share, not yet, and sharing a place with others has always been one of the things that makes a place seem like home.
My sole real memory of note from the new apartment comes from sitting on the empty floor on that first night, eating Chinese take-away from a cardboard container, trying to figure out how the hell all this happened.
Experience says this will change, eventually. Memories accrete, whether you expect them to or not. Places you thought were temporary stops suddenly become something else. The Chinese place that seemed really significant when you first moved in gets overtaken by the thoroughly awesome Thai place that’s just that little bit closer. The configuration of furniture that seemed right when you first moved in gets replaced by something that’s better suited to how you actually use the space.
Time wins, in the end. Time always does.