I grew up in a tiny little Manitoba town, on a quiet enclosed street where kids could trick or treat without an adult holding their mittened hands. My dad was a school principal and my mom was a teacher turned homemaker, until she returned to college and became a school librarian (she knew about email and the internet before I did).
When I was eight, my parents began planning the house they would eventually have built by a friend of theirs who was one of the only contractors in town. We moved into the brand new four bedroom bilevel when I turned nine. I remember very clearly the excitement of having a beautiful, bright new house with a huge backyard filled with trees that were perfect for hide and seek.
It made odd, creaky sounds in winter (as most Canadian houses do), and it was pretty hot in the dog days of summer, but it had this great old-fashioned wood stove and a beautiful patio overlooking a huge backyard. I had a friend or two who came over all the time (the laughter driving my older, cooler brother into his bedroom with his Walkman cassette player) because it always felt like a welcoming place to spend some time.
My brother and I moved out of our home when we graduated from high school, since the closest university was six hours away in Winnipeg, Manitoba. But our parents continued living there, carefully maintaining the house and property, until just this year. They are now preparing to move out of our family home and into a condo closer to my brother, who continues to live in Winnipeg.
My mom and dad are busy, packing up the house and moving boxes to the new place, as well as wrapping up the legalities of selling one property and buying another. However, as they continue to share pieces of this brand new journey, I always sense that hint of nostalgia coming through the messages about packing my bedroom. They send me photos of my old high school windbreaker that they found in the attic. They mention a bit of “silly” melancholy when they sold my dad’s favorite armchair (time to downsize).
If you’ve chosen a life far from your family, you’ll maybe understand a bit of what I’m feeling now. I feel like I’m so far from this life-changing event I may as well be on the moon. I feel like I can’t help work them through this major transition. And I feel like I won’t get to say goodbye to the home that held my family for all those years.
Because everyone needs to say goodbye when they leave a dear old friend. Every time we would go to Canada, our house was like an anchor where my Mexican children could set down their Canadian roots. I’d love to watch them climb in the tree house, or help their grandmother pick raspberries, or have a water fight with their cousins. It gave them a little glimpse into my childhood. More importantly, it helped them create memories of a family that lived so far away.
Last summer we already knew that my mom and dad were trying to sell the house, so before we left for the last time, my daughter went around the house and garden taking photos of things that she thought I would find meaningful. I looked through them later, and was touched and amused (mixed emotions quite common for parents) by her close ups of my teddy bears, my dresser and bed, my closet and all their contents. But what brought tears to my eyes was the zoom-in on the sidewalk in the front. There’s an inscription there in the cement that says “1982” and a symbol of the combined initials of my parents and my brother and me.
Very soon my childhood home will be occupied by strangers. But I’d like to tell them that their new house contains a lifetime of special memories, and I would wish them a lifetime of the same. I’d want them to know that it’s part of who I am. And I would tell them that there’s a little house in Mexico being filled with the same warmth and care, thanks to all the happiness shared within those walls.