Updated: Nov 9, 2020
It is the season of transition.
Summer turns to autumn.
Crops are harvested.
Living creatures take a collective breath and start to slow down. The hibernators settle in. The birds head for warmth. And me? I find myself snuggling under the covers a bit longer. I take a little bit more time to sip my tea each morning.
This fall has brought on another transition. My step-mother and the last of my living parents has decided to move in with my sister and sell the home that has been hers since 1962.
While it has been a place where I experienced some heartache, it's also been the one constant in my life. My mother's house was chaotic. My dad and step-mother's house was, for the most part, steady. My yellow Tupperware cup was always in the cupboard. (We all got assigned cups one year when my step-mother got tired of washing glasses. We'd each been grabbing a new glass each time we went to the sink. In the days before the dishwasher, assigned Tupperware lessened the load.)
There is still turquoise blue shag carpet in the back room, No need to replace it. It is perfectly good quality carpet. The speckled piano will probably remain in the basement. No one is entirely sure how the giant, heavy upright got in the house in the first place and we have no clue how anyone would get it out.
Some of you will recall, I'm the product of an affair. The man I call my dad, isn't biologically my dad, but he claimed me anyway. His ex-wife, my mother, put his name on my birth certificate. So, being the man that he was, he rolled with it. I would get sent to live with him when my mother, for whatever reason, couldn't take care of me. This was all fine and good for the first three years of my life. But his new wife had two children of her own, one of which had special needs. She was working full-time and already had her hands full. Now, she was expected to take in the illegitimate child of her husband's ex-wife. Neither of us got a choice. But it was what it was.
It was the first place I'd ever seen with a finished basement. I was terrified to go downstairs because my mother had lived in apartments. The home downstairs belonged to someone else.
My mother tolerated my free spirit and embraced my wild.
My step-mother demanded structure. There were rules.
When I moved in with her in 4th grade, she pulled my thin and stringy hair into painfully tight Laura Ingalls braids. My jeans were saved for work days. I had to wear dresses.
The two of us traversed our way through a situation neither of us were trained or prepared for. We did what we had to do. It was what my dad wanted. We both loved him.
So, for better or worse, It was my home. The one place in my life that never changed.
Over the last couple of weeks I've trekked the hour over to her home and picked up what objects I wanted; a few quilts from her vast collection -- including a tied quilt that served as my bedspread while I lived there. Some of my dad's welded yard art. Two braided rugs that I strangely cherish. While they're worn, I can see see the bits and pieces of my clothing that were woven into the oval braids. You see, when we out grew or wore out our clothing, we cut the clothes into long strips. They were folded in half, then sewn. All the strips were braided into the rugs. It's how my sister and I learned to sew and it was a family project on many a late Saturday afternoon after the chores were done.
I think I took for granted that this brick home would always be there. The rose hedge facing the road and the lawn where my dad would play catch with us. The back yard where my sister and I would sunbathe. The subdivision developers didn't put an alley in so when a transformer blew in the backyard, the power company and the fire department were all out there in the middle of the night. Everyone on the block was awake. Everyone but me. I slept through all of it. Oh, how I long to be able to sleep like that again. My brother thought it was the best thing ever.
But, when COVID took my brother this summer, my step-mother faltered a bit. Her memory failed her. She got rattled here and there. My siblings and I took turns checking in on her, but we could tell it was time for a transition. So the plans were made. At 88 and for the first time since 1974, my step-mother stopped delivering Avon. She moved in with my sister and is near grandkids and great-grandkids and dozens of nieces and nephews. Her sister lives nearby.
She's doing better than she has all summer. And it's good.
I feel like my foundation has a crack in it. I know i have my own foundations now. I'm a grown up. It's time for this transition.
But I don't like it. Not one bit.
My house is more like my mother's than my step-mother's. There is chaos. There are piles of "stuff I need to go through". My step-mother's house was tidy. Organized. Everything in its place. Fifty years after I moved in there for the first time, I still know where the extra toilet paper is. Where the rulers would be. I know the blue toy box has a baton and a cap gun and the missing piece to my Bionic Woman charging station.
And now, it will be someone else's steady place. Someone else will find their way there. Maybe they'll play three hour games of Monopoly. Maybe they'll solve Clue with
the pipe wrench and Colonel Mustard in the ballroom.
As for me, I'll pout a little while wrapped in the pastel pinks and greens and yellows of my childhood's bedspread and wish, just for a minute, time could stand still.
What am I listening to? This song -- which played one morning on my way back from my step-mother's house. Cried all the way home!