Literally. Not when they tear your house down.
We sold our house in August. The house I lived in for 8 years and Egg lived in for 7. The house we lived in when we met, got married, had Z. The house whose backyard hosted countless parties--the grad school party when the window got broken and my neighbor came over to tell us to keep it down. The late night party when we sat around the chiminea smoking and drinking until almost morning. The front porch where Egg asked me to marry him. The backyard that we made into gardens for tomatoes and chard and peppers.
A year ago at this time, we had just finished remodeling. The kitchen had new cherry cabinets. Granite countertops. Tile blacksplash. Egg, the world's best painter, had just finished painting the hallway. He painted every room in that house. Our bedroom was a strange silver-green that he made with special texturing paint. Z's room was adobe-peach. The basement had a bright purple room, a red room, an amber room. The kitchen was mocha-colored. Egg paints like a crazy person--cutting in a room's ceiling first, then cutting in corners, then painting the walls, painting trim in the most toxic-smelling of oil paints, painting window casements freehand. It takes him forever to paint. I wonder how long it took for the paint to fold and crack as they crushed the drywall.
The house was brick--post WWII regular bungalow with a concrete-tile roof. It was small but with a dry, finished basement, big enough for 4. Egg's mom and my mom grew up in houses that size without the basement with families twice that big. But this house wasn't big enough for the couple and their 3 year-old.
My mom, who encountered the potential buyers last summer while she was watering the plants (we had already moved here), told me the first thing those would-be and eventual buyers did was ask her about the lot size. We should have figured then what they had in mind but I thought addition, not demolition.
All the work that went into that house: Egg, his step-dad, his uncles, my sister, my mom...everyone who helped us weed and rake and paint. All the people who visited: to drink beer in our enormous backyard, to eat dinner at the table in the small dining room off the kitchen or at the island, to watch Z start to crawl on those newly-finished hardwood floors.
Of course I still have all those memories, but now, and I'm sure at least for a while, I'll think about something that happened in that house --the time I couldn't decide which was more wasteful--washing out the yogurt container with the limited water in that drought-ridden state or just throwing the plastic away. In the end, I gave the container to Cleo to lick out, then I recycled it. Cleo, the dog we got while we lived there. Or the compost bucket on the back porch. Or the smoking I did on that back porch and then quit doing on that back porch. The books I read and writing I typed. The dumb fights with Erik and the sex in different rooms. The dinners I made. The goodbye parties hosted for others, then for us--and that memory will be tainted with the recognition of the actual "thing" not being there.
I'm very big on the thing itself.
I still like to drive by the old houses I grew up in. The one by the mortuary. The one by the cemetery. The one by the church. When I'm in Portland, I drive by the apartments I lived in and the house I owned. Just going by reminds me of things I'd forgotten. I won't be driving by our house again because it will not be there. Nothing to jog my memory. Nothing but a gigantic house that dwarfs all the neighbor's regular-sized houses. Nothing but a waste of lumber and tree and paint trucked off to the dump, maybe a salvage yard, if I'm lucky. Nothing but those motes in the air. The dust of the thing itself. Maybe there's enough substance in that dust that I could find the flicker of a memory. I could go over there and rake the grass, toss up some motes, see what that could do to remind me of the house where we brought Z home from the hospital, both times, where Cleo healed from her hip surgery, where the night we met, Egg came over and we read that transvestite Mormon cookbook, where my first friends in grad school Dr. Write and J.P. came over that first semester and drank what was left of my Oregon wine, where my best friend in grad school Steve came over and let me make him cassoulet, where Thirty-one came over during lunch when she was pregnant to take a nap on my couch, where my cats had a cat door in the backdoor that opened into that enormous backyard, where my mom stayed when she moved back to Salt Lake before she left for New York, where my friends slept the days surrounding my and Egg's wedding, where my sister P stayed when she came home from Baltimore, where I experimented with paper and computers and herbs and plants and books and exams and baby-raising.
It was hard leaving that house last August. Now it's like leaving all over again.
Last night, the Jazz played in the Playoffs in Salt Lake. One of the cameras looked like it was stationed right about where our house had been. The view was of the city that we could have seen from our back porch, if you tilted your head one way and leaned over the railing a bit. Egg and I looked at each other and then quickly looked away.