I’ve been looking at houses online. It feels transgressive, a betrayal of my solid and unexciting little house. We’ve been together for so many years, you see, and it really was a perfect match all those years ago, but now I look at other houses and think about what might have been. Or could be.
There is one house for sale I keep looking up. The house itself is nothing special, aside from its spectacular 1960’s ranch house mojo. If we bought it I would spend months ripping out dirty carpet and pink toilets. But it backs up to the Patuxent river, with a half acre of land running down into the parkland at the river’s edge. I can imagine a garden tumbling down that hill, meeting the forest in a shrubby verge, and continuing along a mysterious path through the woods to the river at the bottom of the valley. I imagine Noah spending afternoons playing by the creek with his dogs, rather than playing Minecraft on the iPad.
But I keep circling around the idea that this little house of ours, with all its flaws, is somehow alive. I feel tender toward it, sorry for its hurts and insults, and I would grieve to leave it alone in the neighborhood without us. All of this is ridiculous. And yet I can’t help but feel that the lives lived in a house are connected to that house, that severing the link to a place severs the link to those lives. Maybe I feel this more keenly as someone with a terrible memory. I need the place to trigger the memory of things that happened there. I don’t want to lose the wedding rehearsal dinner in the backyard, the Thanksgivings with now-gone family, the sound of rain on the tree by our bedroom window, the feel of Noah’s skin as I rubbed his back at bedtime. I want to keep the lives I have lived in this house close to me, safe from time.
That nothing is safe from time, especially not a house or a memory, should be clear to me by now. And yet I am reluctant to willfully leave my past selves alone in a discarded house. I hope that when the time comes to go, as it inevitably will someday in the next fifty years, those past selves hold on tight and come along for the ride.