Saturday, December 16, 2006

Home for the Holidays

Saying goodbye to "the house"

This is the homestead. My family’s gathering spot, museum, and warehouse for the last forty years. I moved into this Victorian mansion with my four brothers and sisters at the age of three. It has been “the house” since. My parents moved out in the late seventies, but my oldest sister has owned it since. This is where we gather each Christmas from out “adult” homes scattered across the country, we don’t all make it all the time, but some of us are always there. The presents beneath the huge tree in the parlor, the family seated in furniture older than any of us.

I was married in the parlor.

Next week when I grab my son and drive the 500 miles to “the house” it will be the last Christmas we celebrate here. Health and financial pressures have made it necessary for my sister to put “the house” up for sale and move to an apartment in a distant city to be close to family.

How to say goodbye to a house.

It’s not just any house. This behemoth was constructed in 1864 by a three term mayor of the city. It is listed on the national historical registry. There are three fireplaces within it’s walls, two carved from marble mined in Italy, one from fine-grained granite. The doors are oak with walnut inlays. The ceilings sculpted plaster hung with chandeliers that were originally designed for gas lights. It is grand, stately, quiet, and despite twenty years passed in my hovel in the woods I still say “I’m going home” when I embark on that long drive.

This holiday season when I climb the steps to the door the parlor will again hold a ten foot spruce decked with lights and baubles. The marble fireplaces will be graced with evergreens and gingerbread. The great carved door will swing with it’s barely perceptible groan. But the furniture will sport small pieces of tape, claims of ownership by the siblings. There will be boxes without gaudy paper, a dumpster waiting in the back. Forty five years of accumulated debris of a scattered family to be claimed, sifted and sorted.

This season of celebration will be a funeral, a wake; my family’s preparation to bury the past.

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