At least three days a week I bring my kids to school. My daughter’s school is about five minutes from my house and my son’s about 20 minutes from there. So for the first five minutes, it’s trying to keep my daughter from being annoyed with her younger brother. He is coughing, spitting and passing gas. She sits in the front, him in the back. After I drop her off, he climbs through the seats to sit up front. That gives us twenty minutes of quality time driving a winding road to his school through the tropical forest.
I let him pick the subject, which is usually something he wants to buy. Like a surfboard, or a bike, or new sneakers, or a skateboard ramp. He’s a shopper, what can I say. Likes to spend his time looking on Amazon. So this morning started out no different for about five minutes, then to the conversation about how he misses the home we just moved from. He talks about that a lot too. His childhood home, the only one he has ever known. Unless you are still living in your parent’s basement, we have all been there.
I grew up in a very large five bedroom home on the farm my Dad owned. I have always thought of that time as Camelot. My childhood was wonderful. My parents finally sold that home when I was about 25. Even though I hadn’t been living there for a few years, it was tough on me I won’t deny. Although the reason was economic for them, I guess I still resented the circumstances, not them, that separated me from that house. As I sit here typing this out, I can recall every room, the tiled floor, the big living room windows, my single bed, the dishes in the cupboard. To tell you the truth, I can probably remember more right now than I did my whole life. Funny, isn’t it.
As we were talking about him missing his childhood home, I asked him what memories he cherished from there. I had to rephrase, what does he remember? He started talking about the neighbors, the kids that moved away, his stuff. When I asked him specifically what he remembers, he said he didn’t remember a whole lot. We are talking Holiday’s, Birthdays, his room, our dog, the smell of the kitchen, the colors of the living room. It’s only been a few months. I don’t think it’s not because he doesn’t remember, he just never paid that much attention.
Is that any different than any of us? When we were kids, we weren’t aware of the things it takes to run a house, the bills, the planning for Holidays, the arguments, the drama, the day to day. We had enough stuff of our own to worry about. Sure, he misses the safety of something tangible. Something familiar. That home was his rock, the walls his castle, his room the shelter from all harm. I have a sneaky suspicion that his memory will improve as he gets older and experiences running a house of his own. When he worries about what couch matches the carpet, the color to paint the babies room. Right now, it doesn’t matter. He misses his home, and I will comfort him in that.
After I dropped him off, I spent some time thinking about my memories of my childhood home. I remember the clothes in my closet, my Mom cooking in the kitchen, my Dad coming home for lunch, the first night I got home late, working on my car in the garage, the huge Christmas tree we had every year. All the presents. Then I realized it wasn’t the home that I remembered or missed, it was the memories of family. The home was just a representation of the family. And we all have a different interpretation of the same event. What I remember is probably very different than my two sister’s memories.
Whenever I hear “I’ll be home for Christmas” I cry. It’s the knowing I can never go back to those times, not to the home, but to my family frozen in that time. Someday I’m sure my son will think back and remember the times with his family as we were. He is young and just starting making his memories. My only job is to make sure he remembers the good ones and understands the bad ones.
I think of this every now and then. I picture someone shaking me awake, and I open my eyes to see my parents when they were young, looking down together at me in my little bed, and I, a boy, coming out of a dream. The dream of everything that has happened in my life. And I think to myself as that boy. “It was just a dream. All of it. My parents are here, I am here, everything is ok.” What I wouldn’t give for that to be real.
When school was done for the day, I picked my daughter up first, and we had some time to talk. I mentioned that her brother and I had talked about our old house, and I asked her what she remembered, and specifically, what was her fondest memory. She couldn’t pinpoint anything, so I mentioned Christmas, and she said…….all the presents.