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Abigail B. Calkin

A Blog of Flashbacks

Moving from Home

June 2022

Deciding what to take to your new home is not always easy. Packing boxes of dishes, glasses, kitchenware, and making the choices of items that mean something can stall me when moving from home to home. Most recently, and that was 25 years ago, I made a floor plan to room size and measured furniture I thought would go together and fit. I then placed the furniture cutouts in the various “rooms”. Based on that, some items went into a yard sale and not a U-Haul truck. We were moving from 1,900 square feet to 1,400, from four bedrooms to two bedrooms.

I chose what I wanted to keep. I had my son and niece come home to say what they wanted. My niece took her bedroom set and all the rocking chairs—five of them. One was a large, sturdy oak one with a leather seat. My son said the antique secretary desk, all the oriental carpets, and all artwork. Fine on that, but he’ll have to wait till I’m dead for some of it. Then I had to decide what went to my husband’s and my home in Oregon and what went with us to Alaska. The diagram of the Oregon house made that easy. We had a great yard sale for all the other things.

That’s the easy part though. The hard part came years earlier—leaving the place that had been home for all my life, the house built in 1893, the one I grew up in that my parents owned for 35 years. The home that was the childhood home for my three siblings and me. The home filled with memories. The home where some of my mother’s siblings and their children had lived. The home where both my grandmothers lived with us. It was the home filled with memories for so broad a family. It was the house filled with memories even of relatives and friends who never lived there—the home of skinned knees, sledding or skiing down the hillside, climbing trees, the home of a black linoleum kitchen floor and eight bedrooms, three living rooms, one of which had been a ballroom when originally built. It was a house of four fireplaces, seven gables, two sun porches, one screened-in porch, and three open porches. A beautiful place that I sometimes still imagine ‘if I could have kept it, what would my life be like now.’ The house that remained The Calkin House years after we moved out.

We have not sold the house where my husband grew up. It holds the furniture that I received from my childhood home. It holds my husband’s childhood. He left from there for Vietnam and returned to it, albeit briefly. It’s a home where if he says something should be a certain way, I give deference to him. To me, parts of it still belong to him such as his parents’ bureau or certain items in the workshop. I’ve never told him that, but if he wants something a certain way, I keep quiet and honor his wishes and memories. When we go there, I walk in the house and it’s my home also. It’s a Cape Cod style, important to this person born in Boston and reared close by.

This past weekend we helped my son move out of his Gustavus home. He designed it. He built it. It has so many unique architectural features that I have often thought I wished I lived there. It was hard helping him pack up the children’s toys and books, watching memories of the creek and bridge he had built, walking trails to places I’ll not visit again. That’s a part of moving. We take the memories with us, but occasionally I feel a twang for the reality that is no longer. The reality of the great dinner parties my former daughter-in-law had, great cook that she is. The children playing. Reading them stories.

Odd when I realize how important the dining room table, chairs, sideboard, and china cabinet from my childhood home are to me. At the house in Massachusetts, it’s where all family meals were whether it was just my parents, siblings Mary, Bill, Hannah, and little Abigail, or aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers. It was where my father carved a turkey sitting down. At my mother and stepfather’s home in Savannah, it was coming to a home where I never lived, but had furniture I knew and where I came to visit as often as I could. My stepfather always followed lunch by smoking his daily cigar. In my home in Topeka, the dining room was where our writers group, Table for Eight, ended the evening with a homemade refreshment someone had brought. It was where we had an annual candlelit Christmas dinner for at least twenty people and sat around afterwards telling stories or listening to something special someone chose to share that evening. After Topeka, the dining room furniture moved to Oregon where it sits for Robert’s and my meals or for the occasional dinner of four or ten relatives. Yes, it’s the luncheons and dinners that linger in my thoughts.

It’s the thread of family and the country’s history that also linger in my thoughts. Cousins Wit and Doug and I  remember the conversations our mothers had about our ancestors from the Revolutionary War. We remember them so well that we feel the presence of some of these founding fathers and their families as they came to visit for the many days required after their horse and carriage ride from a good ways away. Yes, greats-grandfathers this or that and their families would arrive and dine with us, sleep in the rooms made up for them, partake in walks on the lawn, and sit in one of the living rooms or the den for long talks about the war against the English or the young country the men hoped to begin.

Living in any house builds memories we take with us long after we’ve left the house and the home it contained.

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