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 . . .

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