Tonight is our last night in Herman Manor.  

We moved here in February 1998.  I was 29.  I had a wife of 4 years, one child (age 2), and no pets.   We owned few things that weren’t leftovers from college.  We had 25″ TV (from college), a couch (from college via my parents hand-me-downs), 2 pine bookcases we’d bought for $99, a bed, a crib, a table and chairs that were Sandy’s aunt’s college furniture before they were even Sandy’s.  

We still fit into our college clothes.  Sandy drove a 1978 Chrysler LeBaron and I had my 1994 Saturn (my first real purchase after getting my first job.

It was pre-Y2k, pre-Internet bubble, pre-September 11th, pre-George W, pre-gray hair.

We didn’t have anything, didn’t know anything, didn’t need anything.  

It’s 10 1/2 years later now.   We have 2 kids (12 and 8!).  My carreer has gone well.  We have things.  LOTS AND LOTS of things!  We do still live with our childhood dressers (both Sandy’s and mine) and a few other silly things we’ve never replaced (like our homemade headboard), but we’ve done well.  

Packing the entirety of our lives into a 27 foot trailer was a daunting task.  When you live in an 1800 square foot house you find ways to make storage space.  For us there were lots of shelves and a huge (and fully loaded crawl space).  It took days to empty out that crawl… long, dusty, allergy filled days.  We opened old boxes and looked at our lives gone by: pictures, mementos, costumes, uniforms, letter jackets, toys, clothes, decorations; things that had made us happy, things that had made our lives full.  So many went into the trash, or were put out one our many “free for the taking” piles on the driveway, some things we kept, but far fewer than we let go.

By the end of last week we were drowning in boxes.  “Boxes boxes everywhere, and not a spot to think” was how I proclaimed it.  Athena had to crawl under the dinner table to get to her chair; our living room was a canyon of boxes so that you could scarcely see someone sitting next to you; the dishwasher was being run once a day because we kept running out of plates.

On Saturday morning DeAnna and Chad showed up to help us (as they always do!) and brought along 3 of kids from their high school too!   It was great to have some young muscles in the house schlepping boxes and furniture out to the trailer.  For $150 in cash, plus some doughnuts and pizza we had a relatively uneventful load-in.  But several times during the day one of the boys would remark to me “man, you have a LOT of stuff!”   

I was embarrassed by this, and saddened too.  I half thought that when I handed each boy a $50 bill at the end of the day it might have been the first time they’d seen one.  I’m sure that’s a foolish notion, but it was bizarre to see my life through the eyes of a 17-year old.  I wanted to defend myself, to explain to them how humble our beginnings had been, to tell them how Sandy and I used to go the the airport and sit and make up stories about the strangers we saw because we had no money to go to the movies, to show them the home-made Christmas tree ornaments we still have, but it wouldn’t have mattered.  All they could see was boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff.

Chad was a magician.  With the truck 2/3 full it was clear we were in trouble and I’d already learned that it was not possible to find a rental truck on short notice on a holiday weekend.  Stuff was going to have to be left behind and I was starting to really feel the weight of the coming decisions.  But some how we got it all in there with room to spare.  It was simply amazing.

Today I packed the “untruckables” into pick-up beds and yard trailers – lawn mower, hoses, potted plants, garage stuff, yard stuff; things far to bulky, heavy, or dirty to box up and put next to our clothes and mattresses.  Sandy spent her day cleaning and cleaning.  She was determined that the new owners not walk into their new house and find it smelling odd or having other people’s dirt in it.  The house sparkles.

And now suddenly the place is empty.  The rooms echo when we call out to each other.  There are no pictures, no chairs, no cups, no toys.  There are no clothes, no TVs, no iPods, no towels.  There are only a few final cleaning items in the kitchen, a box of rags, 3 mattresses with pillows and bedding, and 4 laundry baskets – one for each of us – to hold our morning routine needs and tomorrow’s clothes.

No one could go to bed tonight.  The usual routines didn’t make sense.  Sandy is working in the morning, she’s getting up just after 4 am, so I wanted her into bed early, but everyone was needy.  Athena was crying over the dogs and tomorrow’s ballet class and the sleepover she’s going to.  Orion was pouting and then suddenly had a massive nose bleed, getting blood all over his shirt and the living room carpet!  (no drops here, we’re talking a gusher! QUICK, CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN).  No one would get into their PJs, no one would brush their teeth, no one would go to their rooms and go to bed.  It took forever to get everyone to relax and lay down.  Only…

I can’t sleep.

I loved this house.  I get attached to buildings and things.  They are emotional connections to my life and it’s hard to leave them behind.  I know all the reasons the new house will be wonderful; how it will enrich our lives and how we’ll make wonderful new memories there.

But this is the house where we brought Orion home from the hospital.  It’s the house where my kids learned to ride their bikes.  It’s the place where the tooth fairy comes.  It’s where Santa visits.  It’s where Easter eggs hide.  The kids have really outgrown all that, but it wass tradition in this house, I don’t know if they’ll play along in the new one.

We remodeled every single room here, some more than once.  My dad and I pulled up shag carpet and refinished the hardwood floors.  Sandy and I put in a pond liner that resulted in one of our biggest fights.  Dad spilled a half gallon of paint on the living room carpet.  Chad and I built the shed together.  Athena loved catching crawdads in the irrigation ditch.  Sandy grew beautiful gardens.  Orion and I built trains all over the basement floor.  

With the fish pond out back, I became a decent aquatic gardner (though my talent was the water and fish, Sandy made it look like I understood plants too).  I feed the fish for the last time today, they came to the surface like they always do when I stand near by, mouthing for food, splashing around.  One of them is Lila; a gift from Athena’s 2nd grade teacher. Each child took a goldfish home and I’m sure all were dead within a few days or weeks.  Lila still swims in our pond 5 years later.  I know her by sight and every spring I’m relieved to see her come to the surface when the pond thaws out.

This evening we made the final markings in the back corner of Athena’s closet, noting each child’s height, age, and the date.  It was incredible to see their yearly growth marked out on that wall for 10 years.  There were so small once.

Everyone has been asleep for hours now.  I’m still unable to go.  It’s my last night in my home.  In a few months I’ll be feeling used to the new house and I won’t miss it so much but tonight it’s hard.  

This isn’t a building to me.  This is my life.  And I’m leaving a part of me behind when I go tomorrow.

~ by brianherman on July 6, 2008.

6 Responses to “Catharsis”

  1. Hope the move went smoothly and you’ll settle quickly into your new home. Best wishes to you all.


  2. And I thought leaving a home of 6 years was bad! Catharsis is right on. And nothing like some frenzied physical labor to add to it. Congratulations on your new place!

  3. […] Here’s a great blog entry that concerns itself with the business of emotional attachment to a space, proving the point quite eloquently. […]

  4. Oi from Brazil new neighbor. We look forward to walking over to say hello. Best to the whole family.

  5. I can’t believe it has almost been a year already. I just noticed the height markings in the closet this past weekend while putting the closet doors back on. 🙂 Thanks for all the hard work you guys did on the Stuart house over the years you were there. What a nice, heartfelt blog posting.

  6. […] Here’s a great blog entry that concerns itself with the business of emotional attachment to a space, proving the point quite eloquently. […]

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