21: What You Take With You

21: What You Take With You

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

What You Take With You

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.

~From the television show The Wonder Years

It felt surreal to watch my dad push the “For Sale by Owner” sign into the cold winter ground. We had moved into the little white house when I was only four years old. Now I was almost a teen. It had seemed like we would stay in this house forever. Now I knew that we wouldn’t.

I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to leave this house and its memories behind. I loved our life here. How could we just pick up our lives and leave behind everything that happened here?

That night, we gathered around the table for dinner.

“It will be so nice to have a bigger house. Our family just barely fits in this tiny dining room,” my mom said. She glanced across the table at my two younger brothers and me. “I can’t believe how much our family has grown since we bought this house. Back then we were only a family of three.”

“I’ll just be glad to be closer to work. It takes me almost an hour to get there,” my dad said as he passed a salad bowl. “Why don’t we spend next weekend driving around and looking at some of the houses we saw online?” My mom nodded her head.

I pushed my meal around on my plate, uneasy. “I don’t think I want to move,” I said tentatively.

My mom cocked her head and frowned. “Why not?”

“I like this house,” I said. “We’ve lived here forever. This is where I learned to ride a bike. I helped dad put the windows in the family room. I wrote my name in pen on the basement wall. I don’t want to forget all of those things.”

“We’re going to move into a new house, where you’ll have lots of fun and make new memories,” my dad said. “I promise.”

I hung my head. “Okay.”

We spent the next several months looking at houses. I didn’t want us to find one. I knew that it would just bring us one step closer to leaving our home. One day, we looked at an old Victorian home on the Mississippi River. It had a nice yard with a big tree for a swing. The staircase was curved, and there was a secret door underneath it. There were enough bedrooms for my brothers and me to each have our own. And it was only ten minutes from my dad’s job.

My parents loved the house. I wasn’t so sure. The house was nice; that wasn’t the problem. I just didn’t know how I was going to leave behind a home filled with such great memories.

It took a while to iron out the details, but a few months later my parents told us that we were buying the house. Not long after that, a buyer started showing interest in our old home. Soon papers were signed, and we began to prepare our old house for a new family.

One day, my mom and I sat on the living room floor, packing our belonging into big brown boxes. I still wasn’t at peace about the move, and my mom could tell.

“I know it’s hard to leave good things behind, Logan,” Mom said as she tore off a piece of packaging tape. “It’s hard for me too. But God will bring new blessings. When one door closes, he always opens another.” She tousled my hair. “Could you pass me another box?”

I didn’t feel completely at ease, but I knew she was right. “Thanks Mom,” I said. We unfolded the next box together.

All too quickly, the big day came. We crammed our final possessions into the back of our van. Then we went back into our house for one last look. I walked up the driveway where I had learned to ride a bike. I walked through the living room where my mom had read us picture books. I looked out the windows that my dad and I had put in. Then I went to the basement where I knew my name was scribbled on the drywall in ballpoint pen.

It was gone, covered by a few strokes of new paint.

I guess that’s just the first memory to go, I thought as I slid my finger over the spot where I had written my name years ago. Then I noticed something that I had missed before. There was a crisp cut square around the place where my name had been. The saw lines told me everything that I needed to know. Somebody had very carefully cut out the square of wall with my name on it and replaced it with a new piece. So that the memory wouldn’t be left behind.

And suddenly, everything felt better. I understood what I had been missing all along. We might be leaving our old home behind, but we were taking our memories with us. Just like that square of wall. It wasn’t really the house that mattered, it was the memories that we had filled it with. We could take those with us no matter where we lived, and we would add to them in our new home.

I walked slowly up the stairs and found the rest of my family. “I think I’m ready to go,” I said.

My mom smiled at me, knowing that I had found my peace.

As we walked out of the house and piled into the van together, we said goodbye to our old home. It was still sad to leave that place we had loved so much behind. But we had our memories tucked inside our hearts. That’s what mattered.

~Logan Eliasen

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