Circles

So, after fourteen years or so where we are now, we’re moving. The house we bought used to be my dad’s—well, actually, my whole family’s. And they say you can’t go home again!

My new office is my old bedroom. Bizarre. And as I pulled out its carpet and built-in closet, then proceeded to paint the room a deep golden yellow called Bengalese Cream, I thought about circles—ones I want to continue and bring back to full strength (the gardens and flowerbeds, the yard!), and ones I want to break entirely, once and for all (for example, a genetic propensity for . . . collecting).

Memories crouch in every corner and sit on every shelf in my new-old house, and as in any life, some are wonderful . . . others not so much.

My little nephew visited one day while I was emptying out the kitchen, and found a smiley-faced toy carrot on a coffee table in the living room. “Hey, I remember this!” he exclaimed with delight—then his tone grew suspicious. “Wait, you’re not throwing it away are you?”

I assured him that no, I wasn’t throwing it away. It was a keeper. And it is. I think, literally, every child and grandchild of Simon and Susanne Higginson has chewed on that rubbery, squeaking toy. It’s practically an institution.

But I am recycling, gifting, selling, or scrap-yarding almost everything else. I have my own stuff, literally and metaphorically, to put into the house now.

At first I felt bad clearing things out, but time moves on and life constantly changes, regardless of the physical items we cling on to, trying to pretend nothing’s different. The task then is to carefully choose a few things that have special significance and pass on everything else to people who can use it better than you. Or that’s my aim anyway.

An antique doughboy in the entrance way will take its place in the living room once more. How can it not? Every time I see it, my sister’s a laughing toddler again, magazines strewn about her, waving, wildly proud, from the compartment she’s standing in.

A wardrobe from the 1800s reminds me of times spent in antique shops and second-hand stores with my mom.

A child-sized workbench, handmade by my dad, will remain in the garage. I can’t wait to outfit it with new tools (The labels for what should hang where are still there!) and restock it with miscellaneous lengths of wood for visiting kids to create with.

I’ve found a number of things we’d all thought lost forever, most notably a whole collection of pictures of one of my brothers. They’d been carefully pilfered out of the collection and mounted on poster board for his wedding. We all just forgot. It was profoundly sweet to look at this lifetime of childhood photos, chosen and arranged by my mom’s hand. You can feel the love—and the fun—she had in putting it together.

Other discoveries are as surprising and painful as a slip of a knife. A card from my husband’s mom (now deceased) to my mom when she was dying. Old letters from my parents to each other when they were fighting. Syringes, long outdated prescriptions, and other paraphernalia related to disease.

I wonder sometimes if I’m up to the task of taking on my family home, with all that concept entails—and while the verdict’s not in (It’s sort of a multi-year project), so far I’m pleasantly surprised and get a little more excited, a little more confident, about our decision every day.

The work is cathartic. I feel my parents smile at me occasionally. My mom shakes her head. “You’re not really going to keep that old thing are you, Ev?” My dad’s voice booms as I heft junk down the stairs: “Yep, you’ve always been a big strong girl.” (You can just imagine how I loved hearing that as a teen!) And in the kitchen, memories of my stepmom’s meals and baked treats inspire daydreams about future family events at the home I’ve circled back to . . .

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

“Circles” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, June 26, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

11 thoughts on “Circles

  1. Hey, Holli. Good to see you! We bought my dad’s place from his estate. Not sure if I’m going to Surrey this year (I know, *gasp*), but I’m going to try. 🙂 It would be nice to connect again.

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  2. Did your dad recently pass? If so, I’m very sorry to hear it, Ev. Hugs. It seems like we’re in similar places with downsizing and letting go of cherished (and not-so-cherished) belongings.

    Please try to come! It wouldn’t be the same without you. Jan has already bailed. 😉

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  3. Thanks, Holli. Yeah, he passed away in October of this year.

    I will try to come–but I might be going to Europe instead. Everything’s a bit up in the air right now. I will keep you posted.

    And Jan?! Already bailed? How is she anyway?

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  4. Oh, that’s so sad. I’m very sorry to hear that.

    Europe! That’s exciting, but why is everyone going on a trip at that very time? 😦 Jan is going on a road trip with her husband. She’s doing great, though she’s had some health issues. I think she’s on the road to recovery, though.

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  5. Thanks, Holli. It was (is) very hard . . .

    But yes, life does go on (which is good, though feels weird at times). I am super excited about Europe as I’ve never been and have always wanted to go. If it’s not going to pan out for fall, however, I’ll be sure to let you know.

    Next time you chat with Jan, please give her a warm hello and my hopes that all is well with her health and family.

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  6. You as well, Holli . . . and if my plans change and I’m somehow able to attend SiWC 2013, I’ll let you know (and other future years, too, of course). If I’m not in touch before the conference, have a wonderful, productive, inspiration-laden time. 🙂

    And, ahhh, the good ol’ days . . . Me too.

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  7. Well I’m game if you are! I’m still here and chained to a computer most days.

    I really hope you can come. I’m seriously bummed that none of my ol’ conference friends will be there this year. Even some of the presenters I like don’t go anymore.

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