Transitions

Filed Under (Adam) by Estee on 03-06-2009

Virginia Woolf wrote much on the homes where she lived and the homes she wanted. Her husband enabled it too — if she wanted a place, he would move with her and she would write extensively about the house and its spirit and how she lived (or wanted to live) within its walls.

Adam has moved once. As my husband and I were building the house where we now live, I introduced the house to Adam slowly. I took him on the day we tore down the old building that once sat on the land where this new structure we build stands. I took Adam when tractors were about, nails being hammered. I brought Adam for three years before we finally moved in, the final few introductory days playing ball on the floor as the final touches were being made.

Yet saying goodbye to the older rickety house we had lived in until he was three years old was very difficult despite the hope and anticipation a new home can bring. As old as that painted white house was, built sometime in the 1930’s, my husband and I had spent many a night in the sun-room out back and still filled the house with the things we hunted for together. I went into labour in that house, walked half a block during labour to realize I couldn’t walk anymore and said a goodbye that day to the house that would quickly change as a new baby filled its walls with both cries and laughter. I do remember that day we returned with our newly born Adam. The house was dark on an early spring morning and I could feel it missed me. Its air was already stale. Yet quickly, Adam filled it up again as he took over all of our living space with baby-things.

I also remember the day we moved out for good and Adam stayed with his grandparents. We had moved on a sunny hot day also in a spring season. I remember the first few strange nights introducing myself to the house and the house to me with its new rumblings and gurgles. I never thought I would miss the old white house, but I did. Adam’s first important years were in that house. Still, even though we had moved in, I had forgotten his crib. I could not leave it behind. It was my crib made for me by hand by my own grandmother. It still sat in our old master bedroom, now scattered with dust balls. When Adam fell asleep in the back of my car, I drove up to the old house. It had clouded over and began to rain softly. That may have been the most difficult day, saying goodbye to what it housed — my first meeting of my stepchildren, my first living with Henry, our wedding and the photos we took inside, and of course, of Adam and the family we had built around him.

I am half-living at the moment. I am living in the past and in the future, the present quite a haze of where-to-go-from-here loss and opportunity that divorce sets before me. I am half-married, half-moved as I transition Adam to yet another house and am about to move from the one where I write this post today — the modern one. The goodbye has been quiet and sad, but it is slow, which is both good and not so good. It is good for Adam as he gets used to the idea that his mother will not be living here anymore, but his dad will move back in.  This was the house that started writing projects, The Autism Acceptance Project, with its office overlooking Adam’s trampoline where I would write, create and watch him laugh.

I will call myself a nester. I am building a new nest for my baby-bird. It feels lighter, but goodbyes are a necessary ritual, no matter how painful. I will borrow what I found a particularly beautiful paragraph writing by Louise De Salvo on goodbyes:

“But when will the new house become a home? When I’ve organized its rooms, its closets? When I’ve hung our paintings, our positioned our pottery on top of dressers? When I’ve cleaned it top to bottom for the first time? Or will it take time? Or will it take not time, but instead a bread baked, a soup made, a journey returned from, an illness survived, a few pages written, a sweater knit, to make the house feel like home?

First, though, I must let this house go. But I can’t. Not yet.

I feel like I’ve betrayed this house, for I’m the one who’s leaving. The house can’t go anywhere. It certainly can’t come with me, though at times I have imagined taking it with me, digging it out of the ground, propping it on stout timbers, and moving it, like the houses I’ve seen moved from one place to another on the East End of Long Island. How can I think of letting perfect strangers move through its rooms when it’s sheltered us so well all these years? How can it go from being mine to being someone else’s? And yet if everything about the house can change — the style of its furnishings, the contents of its cabinets and closets, the color of its walls — then why have I loved it so exclusively? While I lived here, I foolishly thought no one else ever would. So now, too, I feel like I’ve been betrayed, even though I’m the one who’s leaving.

About leaving this house, I feel sick inside, like a brute, like I’ve disrespected it, violated it. I feel like I’m abandoning a lover for no good reason. I feel sure the house will miss me, will wish I had stayed on; I feel sure it won’t like the new people, for they won’t understand it and its special needs and endearing quirks — how it doesn’t like curtains on its windows; how it likes its wood-work cared for; how its stained-glass windows must be treated gingerly; how its roof must be cleared of snow.

For this house is not merely a house. It has become imbued with spirit. My spirit. My family’s spirit. When I leave today, I’m sure that I’ll be leaving something of myself behind, something of myself that will never be found again, something that will remain here.”

Louise De Salvo, On Moving: A Writer’s Meditation on New Houses, Old Haunts and Finding Home Again, New York: Bloomsbury, 2009, (pp. 209-210).

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About Me


ESTÉE KLAR

I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (www.taaproject.com), and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.