My wife and I spent the weekend in Maine helping my parents prepare for the sale of their home on a pond in Central Maine.
It is the house that I grew up in from age seven and I have felt very torn as we've negotiated a deal and worked to process many of the childhood items that still inhabit the house.
As I sat on the second story porch at the Towne Motel in Skowhegan yesterday morning, I thought back to my high school days when coming to Skowhegan was coming to the city. Well it was not quite going to Waterville and DeOrsey's Records, but it was close. I thought about the summer day when my girlfriend was actually working at the Towne Motel and in an effort to kill time until she got off work, I went to the Skowhegan Cinema and saw Blade Runner at a matinee.
I remember what it was like in those days to return to the Pond. It was a quiet refuge of home but it was very active. The entire house was active; my bedroom was upstairs where when the gods smiled I would be able to listen to my newly acquired records on Dad's stereo when the generator was on and Mom was doing laundry. I was of course forever eating in the kitchen, trying to find a tool in the workshop to fix something, sweeping the deck, or heading out on the little raft that I outfitted with a lawn chair and a motor - Gilman Pond's first "party boat" as far as I can tell.
I remember tearing out of the back door and running as fast as I could to the parking lot at the top of the hill just to see how that felt. I remember crawling around under the house with Dad every Spring dragging hydraulic jacks, cedar posts and shims and trying to level the house after a long winter of frost heaves. The fall which would bring a ladder and a trip up to the top of the peak of the roof to clean out the chimney in preparation for a long winter of wood fueled warmth from the Vermont Castings stove in the living room.
As I sat on the porch at the Towne Motel I compared that house to the one that I saw now. It is smaller today and a bit darker. Lots of moss has grown in areas around the house that were previously covered with new gravel and lined with cedar poles. The garden now looks integrated into the landscape; in the past it was a shiny new thing that my parents had created. The trees around the house are fewer and the woods look very different.
The place has matured. It's quieter and less impulsive and energetic. It's less adolescent. It's not really the place that I inhabited from age seven to seventeen when I went to college and twenty one when I got married there and moved away to take my first job.
Though I've returned there many times since leaving at twenty one, I realize now that even those visits were indeed visits. Once I left, it was Mom and Dad's home and it showed it. I could pretend that it was the same and reenact some of that old rituals but it was not the same.
This occurred last fall for the last time when the entire family joined Mom and Dad at the Pond for a family reunion. We did it all: ping pong battles in the barn, canoeing, swimming, a fire in the fire pit with lobsters, and of course sitting, chatting, and snoozing on the big deck in front of the kitchen. The weather was glorious and the beer cold. It was the last performance of a long running show and it drew a standing ovation with several curtain calls.
So when my wife came out of our motel room the other day, I felt just a little better that the place we were helping my parents sell was no longer the house I grew up in. It was a different more mature place than my childhood home. Passing it on to someone who can enjoy it anew in their own way felt better to me. My memories of the place will keep my childhood home with me.