February 07, 2010

Goodbye home

There is a house on West 34th Street in Holland, MI, that today stands full of boxes and scrubbed base boards. For almost 25 years, the mail delivered to that house has been addressed to The Rademakers. That's my family. The poor mail man might fall over dead next month when the mail for that house is in someone else's name. He might be thrilled, however, if the new owner replaces the mail box, which has been rusting away for years:)

My mom and dad raised three kids, one obese cat, and two neurotic dogs in that house. They watched Leno every night for two decades in that stuffy living room. My dad frowned over thousands of bills at the kitchen table. My mom washed thousands of loads of laundry in the breezy room at the top of the stairs. I slept for years in the yellow corner bedroom, just at the end of the hall. I can still tell you which floor boards to avoid when trying to sneak in past curfew (did I say that out loud?) We wore out countless bathing suits, summer after summer, in the backyard pool. We built snowmen in the front yard, had camp outs in the back yard, and built, fought over, and eventually tore down a clubhouse behind the barn. The tree I planted under the clothes line in seventh grade is now three times taller than the light post. I can point to the exact spot on the back patio where I tried, and then violently threw up, cherry flavored chewing tobacco (these things happen when your older brother is a complete redneck:) In fact, there are few inches, if any, on that entire property that are not tied to one or more memories.

And I will never see it again, at least not the way that I remember it. When we moved overseas in the fall of 2008, I did not know that my parents would move out of their house before I got back. The last time I pulled myself up out of that swimming pool and dried off to go in for a grilled steak or whatever, I had no idea that I would never pull myself up out of that pool again. And I'm sure I never even looked back.

It is very strange how much of what makes a person who they are is wrapped up in their childhood home. I was not prepared for the tears I would shed over this, or the sense of uneasiness that it would bring. My parents are moving to a condo now. Old people move to condos. It's the last step before the nursing home. A young family is moving in to 44 W. 34th Street. Their children will camp in the back yard, vomit Skoal on the worn cement slab next to the screened-in porch, and have their first kiss under the yellowing light on the front doorstep. They will lock themselves in the outdated bathroom and cry for hours for no other reason than they are fourteen and they are confused by the world at large. They will slam the cheap doors and apologize for it later, over chicken salad, on the pool deck with their mom who they now appreciate more than ever.

Meanwhile, I think I will stay away. I don't think I could see the house with strangers living in it. This summer, when we are in Holland for a visit, I might send Daniel on an errand to the back yard to steal a few pine needles from my tree. I will dry them and put them in my treasure box for safe keeping, and I will remember 44 W. 34th Street until the day that I die.

p.s. The picture is my dad, shirtless, eating his second dinner (during Leno) out of a 9x13. Yes, that is all for him. And honestly, there couldn't be a better picture of the house.