Two boxes. A wedding dress.
There was a bit more but that was most of it. Eleven years of memories packed into two boxes full of notebooks, letters, and tattered disposable camera film. I packed it snugly into the back of our small SUV and marveled at the weather--unseasonably warm, 77 degrees and sunny in mid-December.
My parents' marriage fell apart in a way that was so complex and maddening that I couldn't even begin to describe it. And yet I always knew that moving out of that house would be the hardest part for me. Ironic as it may sound, you can see a toxic relationship but a house is a house and it still holds some of the best memories long after your dad has left and your mom has packed everything up.
Takeout sushi and pizza in the open frame with my mom, dad, brother, and then-boyfriend while the house was being constructed--we'd walk around and picture which rooms were which and take in the gorgeous views of the lake while the sun set. Week-long sleepovers with my best friend Emma, sharing clothes and laughing until our stomachs ached and whispering back and forth in bed until sleep overtook us. High school weekends with friends, gathered around the kitchen island by day and sprawled next to each other on the couch by night. The time I left my door to the back porch unlocked so Patrick could come into my bedroom and say goodbye the morning he left for college (I forgot about the alarm and when he opened the door it went off, calling the police and everything).
There were fall and winter breaks home from school, visits from friends who lived out of town, and the feeling that anyone and everyone was welcome to the house at any time, for any reason, as long as they were willing to eat until they felt sick. It was my landing pad after graduate school when Rob was working in DC and I didn't know what I wanted to do with my career. It has always been a safe space to rest, until recently.
We celebrated our engagement at the house, I tried on my wedding dress for the first time at the house--surrounded by my mom, our wonderful neighbor and friend Linda, and my best friend and maid-of-honor Tina--and after our wedding, all the people I love in the world gathered together for brunch at the house.
My mom and I, always morning people, would wake up before everyone else and drink coffee at the island or in the sunroom or sometimes on the deck outside. She came home to this house after a double mastectomy, and my brother and I walked her through recovery as best we could, doling out pain meds and retreating to the basement to eat chips and watch Parenthood while she slept. It was the hardest two weeks of my life and yet I look back on it with nothing but gratitude.
This was the house where Rocky lived, and after he died I came home for Christmas and felt his absence so profoundly that I cried big, fat, devastated tears before I could even set my bags down. I was sitting in the kitchen when my friend Andy called to tell me that our friend Zach had unexpectedly passed away. Everything happened here.
So when my parents split up, I felt mostly fine. But when I swept the bare floor of the living room that used to echo with laughter instead of emptiness, I didn't feel fine anymore.
I know we'll always have the memories, and I know even more confidently that we'll make new ones. I have two boxes and a wedding dress to remind me of that.
But I'll miss the house.