Well, that's it, it's on the market (click the image to see the creepy Howard Hanna profile). If you didn't know already, my parents are moving out of the state, and selling the house I grew up in. And although I'm pretty ticked off that my parents went off to Greece, expecting me to deal with workmen, realty agents, neighbors, dog and their children, I still have enough energy left over to feel a little sad about having to let go of my childhood home, for good.
Most of it has been gone for a long time. The neighborhood I knew growing up is mostly gone, people have moved out of town. My parents have made so many changes to the house over the years, that it's already really different than the way I remember it being. They also made me get all of my stuff out of the place about a year ago, so I don't really have a room of my own there anymore. My brothers' rooms have been converted to sitting rooms and studies.
I honestly didn't expect to feel the pangs of nostalgia, but this weekend when I was there, heartily cursing my parents for leaving me alone and overridden with their life sh#!, I took a moment to look around and think about how nice it was to grow up in one place, one house, for all those years.
My parents and I don't often see eye to eye. They have built their lives around achieving stability--in particular financial and marital stability--above all things. Things like personal happiness, emotional stability, etc. I realize now that in many ways, the things that they valued and worked for in life were a direct response to things they lacked while they were growing up.
Both of their parents went through nasty divorces, just as my parents were leaving home for college. My mom's father didn't believe that women deserved to be educated, and didn't offer a dime for her education. My dad's parents' divorce trial made it to the New Jersey supreme court, and he, his six siblings, and their foster brother were caught in between some serious animosity. In brief, alcoholism, extra-marital affairs, emotional and physical abuse, endless petty court battles, suicide and chronic depression defined a good part of their young lives. And so, I'm sure at one point they made a resolution, both separately and together, that 1) their marriage would never end in divorce (this, is more my dad's big thing) and 2) they would achieve the kind of financial stability that would allow them to support a house, the full education of four children, etc. (my mom's particular leaning).
Perhaps because this is what they offered me growing up, and perhaps because it is all I know, I of course found flaws in their methodologies, as children of parents often do. Both of my parents, for instance, had difficulty controlling their tempers, and corporal punishment was not out of the question when I was growing up as it was for, say, my youngest sibling. And, while they saw me through my "necessary" education and day to day needs with an admirable, even enviable, steadfastness, other reasonable, but superfluous expenses or needs were deemed unworthy, and largely overlooked.
Looking back on it, I realize how young they were, and how fresh their family traumas must have been even after they had me and my brothers. How they were learning to be parents, as I was learning to be. And--part of me understands the decision-making there, however muddled with anger and insecurity, through that assumption of their vulnerability. I honestly believe that they were trying to make the world a better place in their own little way, and coming to terms with a lot of serious baggage in the meantime.
But, seeing the house as it is now, and remembering how it was, I can also see a big, beautiful part of what they were able to give me: a sense of place.
I mean a sense of place in more ways than one. Literally in that they gave me that house for twenty-odd years, and that childhood, which for the most part was pretty--stable. And I also got a sense of place in a different sense--more emotional and intellectual. An internal sense of place, which will be with me a long time after the house, and even the parents are gone. Confidence can come from any number of avenues and byways, but I attribute a good deal of my internal stability to my education and having had people--parents, friends--who did not always understand me, but who did offer support in the best way they knew how. You can't go off beating your own drum, so to speak, without a couple of decent mallots.
And so, thanks house, and thanks parents for doing all that you did.
notes - Mel Chin talk at MCAD
1 day ago