I traveled to Oklahoma over the weekend so I could help with the clean up, throw out, and move on from the old house. Mom is in her new house and will close on the old one sometime next week maybe. My siblings and sibling-in-laws have done most of the heavy lifting, but over forty years of layers of stuff is hard to deal with. I felt a little guilty that they'd had to carry most of the load. Being practically two states away makes things difficult. So I went this weekend, set up an air mattress in the downstairs bedroom because the house is practically empty. Randy and Katrina ended up on a mattress in one of the upstairs bedrooms. It was like a slumber party or squatting.
When I got there Friday night, Randy and Katrina where still at the Oologah football game. They had left their two chihuahuas in pet carriers in the den. When I unlocked the door to the house, all I could hear were these cages rattling and feral dog sounds. It was slightly disturbing until I realized it was just Buttercup and Wendy. For a while that evening, I was alone in the old house, just me and the two dogs. It was odd being in the house with the rooms mostly empty, nothing left but the ghosts of memories. You could hear them echoing from room to room. We all have mixed feelings over this house. Of the three of us, I was the one that lived in it the longest. It holds all of the memories for me.
I can remember an afternoon where Mom had polished the hardwood floors in the living room. All the furniture was pushed out of the way and rug rolled up. Janell and I skated around the living room in wool socks. We did our best impressions of Dorothy Hamill, twirling around and around. We were speed skaters, racing back and forth. We crashed a lot. We laughed a lot. We begged Mom not to put the furniture and rug back. "Just one more day!" we cried. But eventually everything would go back where it belonged. This room also held the piano and there was practicing to be done. No more time for skating. We traded our socks for roller skates and cleaned out the garage to be used as our roller rink. This would last until the weather would change and Mom would insist on putting her car in the garage. Then we'd trade the roller skates for sleeping bags to use as sleds and race down the stairs landing in crumpled giggling heaps at the bottom of the stairs.
As a kid, I remember only one time where Christmas was not at that house. We went to Mississippi that year and I had a panic attack about Santa finding me and how he was going to get into my Grandmother's mobile home without a chimney. Other then that time, Christmas would be an endless loop of sneaking down the stairs at two o'clock in the morning to see what Santa had left for us and the hours of waiting for everyone to get out of bed or for Randy and Katrina and J to show up. Then there was the year that Santa left Odie and I had to sneak him back up the stairs with me so he'd stop whimpering. He was my life dog, the sweetest, most loyal puppy, the beagle version of My Dog Skip. There's a stain on the dinning room floor from where he left a very messy and stinky present. This and chewing up the rungs of the dinning room table would get him banished from the house. He'd spend the rest of his life on a runner in the backyard or on a leash with me. A shame really because he was so good at just laying in your lap. He had the softest ears.
I painted my bedroom pink and decorated the walls with Beatles posters I bought from Hobby Lobby. Mom still had those posters rolled up in a cardboard tube. I gave them to Thomas (J's youngest). He's all into the Beatles these days, listening to Sargent Pepper's Lonely Heart Band while minding the bonfire we started in the old swimming pool. J's boys are no longer boys, but young men. Just like this house is no longer my home. It is a place I lived once a very long time ago. It's the house were I lived through the years of never wanting to leave and the years of only wanting to leave. It witnessed every broken arm, that Fall break when I had my tonsils taken out, and that time I swallowed a marble. I stood at the front door so Mom could take my picture when I was all dressed up for prom. Stephanie and I built so many floor pallets on the brick floor in the den, staying up watching movies rented from the movie rental place in town. We'd race to that house for lunch before they closed the campus our Senior year, making salami, cheese and mustard sandwiches. It feels like a lifetime ago.
A lifetime ago this house was full. A house that was once full is now empty.