You can never go home, Oatman! . . . but apparently you can shop there.

Forty-one years, two months, and fifteen days ago, my parents moved into a newly built house in Dallas.

Now I’m here to say goodbye.

The house has been sold, though they won’t be moving out for a while yet (giving them time to finish divesting of stuff they won’t be bringing with them). After this, unless I attend a convention in Dallas, it’s entirely possible I’ll never revisit the city I still think of as “home,” even though where I live in California is also home.

It helps a bit that my parents have kind of Ship of Theseus-d this place over the years. It isn’t a time capsule of my childhood; many things have been updated along the way. The cheaper, more busted furniture got replaced by nicer stuff once my brother and I were old enough not to wreck it. Ditto the carpet. The linoleum in the kitchen gave way to much classier tile, the formica countertops to granite. After both kids were out of the house, my parents turned my brother’s old room into an office, while the former office-cum-guest room became a dedicated guest room; along with that, they ditched my daybed with its elevating trundle and put in its place a proper bed for me and my husband (which necessitated rearranging the bedroom around it). The most recent bout of renovations replaced the living room carpet and the kitchen tiles with hardwood, along with painting over all the wood paneling in the grey color that is unfortunately in style right now. I wasn’t a fan when I saw it two Christmases ago: between that and the new LED lights on the tree, the warm glow of my childhood memories was replaced by a room that felt like it could refrigerate meat.

But there haven’t been any structural additions, nor any walls ripped out to change the layout of the house. And in the public rooms, everything is still where it’s always been: the furniture may be newer, but each piece sits exactly where its predecessor did. I used to joke that if I were struck suddenly blind, I would come home while I learned to cope, because I could walk through this house in the dark and not hit anything. My parents have lived in this house since before I was born; I’ve never known them to live anywhere else. Them moving is a bigger earthquake than any I’ve experienced in California.

(Contrary to my subject line, though, the house will not be replaced by a convenience store. I just couldn’t resist the Grosse Pointe Blank reference.)

Most people I know moved at least once in childhood, often more than once; lots of Americans these days are peripatetic enough that living in the same place for over forty years has become pretty rare. Severing this connection feels a bit like losing a taproot. It’s necessary, though — and it was always going to be inevitable. Even if my parents had chosen to stay here, I wasn’t going to move in when they passed away. Better to have the shift happen now, by choice.

Saying goodbye is going to be hard, though.

6 Responses to “You can never go home, Oatman! . . . but apparently you can shop there.”

  1. Paul

    So, Martin — what do you do?

  2. Willow Croft

    Yeah it was weird when my folks sold the house I grew up in…don’t know why…I miss the trees more than anything. I haven’t been back to the area (I love Florida’s swamps and nature, but couldn’t handle living in the southern U.S. anymore. Kinda broke my heart a little to leave.)

    • swantower

      Yes, there’s a part of me that will always be Texan, even as I gnash my teeth over many aspects of Texas (and will probably never live here again).

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