Tonight I’ll go to sleep in my childhood bedroom, probably for one of the very last times.
I walked in, dropped my many bags and cares down, and just sighed deeply – inhaling the distinctive smell of "home" -- one that has welcomed me in since the summer of 1981. I can almost feel the house sighing with, and embracing, me.
I’m so comfortable in this oddly shaped room, with its lack of right angles, its slanted creaking wooden floors, and nooks, crannies, dings and dents. There’s the wall where my bed was placed; where my brother and I used to tap out messages to each other in our own code. There are the four large windows where I looked out on my corner of the world, out over the treetops where I imagined I saw mythical creatures. Windows that let in fresh air and so much sun-, street-, and moonlight, so I could read after the official “light’s out.” There is the tiny closet, a vintage, period-appropriate feature of the house, which still managed to house a teenager’s growing wardrobe – 1980’s shoulder-pads and all. Over there is the corner where a bookshelf housed not only my burgeoning library, but where my childhood toys gave way to tokens from friends and high school beaus, and then, in turn, gave way college catalogs that helped shaped my future.
These memories are overlaid by fading snapshots of other scenes. While my eyes take in the current neutral stripe of the wallpaper, I still can almost feel the roses of the vintage raised velvet pink and white pattern that faded to beige and disintegrated with age while I grew up. Another long blink replaces my remembered view of a utilitarian fold-out table with older memories of the hours spent at my childhood writing desk in one spot in the room, and then just as quickly flickers to other, later memories of my grandfather’s desk tucked behind the door -- my mother’s bill-paying spot. If I turn too fast, out of the corner of my eye, I can almost see and hear the ghosts of childhood slumber parties just there, over there -- where now resides the fold-out couch I’m not-quite-looking forward to laying these “mature” bones down upon.
This lovely room, the largest of the bedrooms on the second floor, “straight ahead at the top of the stairs; don’t forget to duck” served so many functions. After my first two years of college, it began to house more of the family. One brother temporarily claimed it as his own, before he too was out of the house and on to new adventures. Then it served as my father’s office, as he needed a private sanctuary to counsel his flock and deal with all of the administrative work inherent in decades of church service. It was the gathering spot, above the football fray, for many a riotous Thanksgiving gathering, where women of many generations sat and gossiped. It became a guest room at holidays and breaks, Dad’s computer and computer-part equipment room, Mom’s storage room, a filing room, and my landing pad – always a safe haven to come home to – for any of its wandering former occupants.
The house is essentially empty now. The furniture that remains does so that the building is not totally vacant. (Or, in the instance of this massive fold-out couch, because it was so difficult to get it in, that it’s someone else’s problem to get out.) But it’s not really empty.
Throughout the house, but most especially in this room where I spent so many formative years, if I close my eyes and listen closely – I can hear the walls, windows, boards, and beams creaking back an echo of all the love and laughter and antics of my family and our friends. This place is a part of us, of who we were, of who we became, of who we are still becoming. We may have left, but in a sense, we will still remain. I know this place will always have a piece of my heart, even though I didn’t live here nearly as long as my parents. Despite that, our time here left an imprint – on us, and on the soul of the building.
Although I've other trips back here since my parents moved away and we've waited for the next chapter to begin for this heritage house, this weekend is probably the last time I’ll sleep under its roof– and sleep in “my” bedroom. Despite the bittersweet poignancy of this realization, I know I’ll sleep safe and sound, and have sweet dreams, because …
There’s just no place like home.