The prospect of selling the house has been floated, after 20 years of residence and three children and two dogs, and though you and I both know that this discussion will now maunder along for another year or two or three, and somehow will finally entail serious money out of pocket so as to achieve only a slight financial loss after all the dust settles, not to mention vast and incomprehensible logistical snarls as regards to packing and moving, still, the very idea of Selling the House causes me to sit here on the porch and remember and recall so very many tiny but not tiny things:
Like the hurried harried building of the rickety front fence so that the three small children did not stagger down the sloping lawn and over the edge into the thickets of poison oak and vengeful wasps; and the line of brave skinny white cedar trees that used to stand between us and the neighbor to the east; and the epic black locust tree that used to stand on the west side and scatter its seedlings so assiduously every spring that 20 or 30 eager infant locust trees would pop up seemingly moments later; and the time the nephews painted our house, their fee consisting of more beer than money; and the insistence of the woman of the house that she build a vegetable garden, and a pathway strewn with hazelnut husks, and a lavender garden, and a rosemary garden, all of which amazingly she did, even though she is a mother and a teacher and an artist and has one minute per month to devote to such domestic projects; and the now-almost-forgotten tiny graves of two parakeets and one gentle pet rat in the back yard, once marked carefully by grieving children but now faint even in memory of the overly memorious patriarch; and the secret tiny door upstairs through which an enterprising child can crawl into the uninsulated passage beneath the old roof; and the way the basement was for years a sort of chaotic gymnasium complete with small basketball stanchion and skateboard ramp and light sabers and balls of every sort and shape; and the Ping-Pong table ,which has hosted far more stacks of laundry than table-tennis games; and the hallway pantry door, which never quite closes properly no matter how many times son number one works to get it to do so; and the useless empty wet cobwebbed room under the porch that exists for no reason known to man except to collect mold and fungus and spiders the size of Samoa; and the old creaky windows opened by crank-handles at either end of the long front room of the house; and the commuting heron who flies east to the river at six in the morning and west back to his or her home at seven in the evening, a serious work day to admire for all of us of any species; and the tremendous cedar tree in the front yard, inaccurately called Bruce the Spruce by the children for 20 years; and most of all, by far most of all, the children who lived here for 20 years.
Children they are no more, lanky and languorous and twentyish as they are, and one by one off to the headlong expeditions of their lives; but for a time, a long time, for hardly any time at all, there were five of us living here, thrumming and shambling through the rooms, laughing in the kitchen, slamming doors in the hallway, sulking on the porch, sprawled on the couch, snoring in our beds, snoring on the couch, grinning and praying and expostulating at meals, pretending to do homework at the old ash dining table, sprinting down the back steps to the school-bus, climbing in and out of the kitchen windows, climbing on the roof, escorting the occasional confused swallow or sparrow back out into the generous and redolent adventure of the air.
For a time, a long time, no time at all, there was a family here, tumultuous and warm, troubled and gentle, brawling and laughing; and even after we sell the house, one or two or three years from now, there will always be a family here somehow still, if only in the inarguable moist chambers of our memories.
See, here, right now, it is a school day, and one child is in fifth grade and the other two in second grade, and the kitchen looks like a roadside diner at rush hour, what with breakfasts and lunches being made simultaneously at a furious rate, and someone is yelling about sneakers and someone else is searching for homework, and someone else will not get out of the bathroom even though it is not her turn, and the dog is excited, and the father is barking sternly, and someone is putting blackberry jam on his cereal, and three neighbor kids are at the back door saying something shrill about the bus, and it will always be that hurried harried delicious perfect holy moment somehow, no matter who else eventually lives here, or where we all eventually live, scattered here and there like shoes and boots and sneakers at the bottom of the stairs.
Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.