85: Mom’s New Home

85: Mom’s New Home

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Mom’s New Home

A little girl, asked where her home was, replied, “where mother is.”

~Keith L. Brooks

I remember being so excited to move into my own place at age twenty. I was nervous and couldn’t wait to take on the challenge of managing my own life. I thought it a bit of an overreaction when it took my mother months to come see my new place. When I’d asked her for the hundredth time to come over, she looked at me seriously, holding back tears and said, “Give me some time to come to terms with the fact that you don’t live at home anymore. I can’t imagine you living somewhere else right now.” I’d laughed, thinking she was overreacting, but later it resonated with me.

Ten years later, I found myself in her shoes. I was newly married but lived only a short drive from my mother and her new husband. All my sisters had moved out by then, but we would still descend on my mother’s house on the weekends and cook and talk and live for a few hours as if we’d never left. We all still had stuff there, our old rooms were there, our memories, but most of all, our mother was there, the same as she’d always been.

Then, as if overnight, she decided to retire and move to Florida. It was as if she’d decided to leave the planet. At first, I was excited for her and behaved as if she were going on vacation. Florida had been her constant vacation spot throughout the years and she’d always had a good time. She always spoke of it with fondness but never did I think she’d move there permanently.

I came over to help her pack, and we talked about how excited she was and how she would enjoy the more hospitable weather. It hit me while wrapping my baby pictures in bubble wrap that something greater was happening. I looked through a box or two while my mother went to get more things from another room. My handprint mold from kindergarten, a framed picture of a childhood vacation with all of our faces painted at a downtown festival, my mother’s large can of random buttons that she would keep in her sewing room. We’d learned to count with those buttons, used them to decorate our Barbie doll clothes we’d made from scraps of fabric she had, and finally sifted through them to fasten our own clothes she’d taught us to make when we got older. Suddenly it seemed as if she wasn’t going on an extended vacation. She was moving our home away, with her in it, to some strange, faraway place that I didn’t know.

I tried to talk her out of it, but just as that hadn’t worked with me when I moved out, it didn’t work with her as she enthusiastically moved into the next phase of her life. After she moved, I’d visit her periodically but her new house never really seemed like home. My sisters and I had never written on the walls or had our own room. We’d never sat down as a family to dinner after a long day at school, or snuck in the back door past curfew. We hadn’t argued and fought over the use of the bathroom or done our hair and make-up in the one mirror. It was my mother’s house, not the family’s.

For a long while, it was like visiting a stranger. I had to ask where things were, if I could go in certain areas, what certain things were for. I actually noticed when something was new and I noticed how many pictures of me were around and when they were moved or replaced.

My mother was different too at first. She reveled in revealing personal things about herself, now that she had a new home in a new city — it was like a new chapter in her life. I found out that she loved flowers everywhere — paintings of them, figurines, silk ones and fresh ones. She arranged her house to reflect her interests and desires — not to raise a family. Her sewing room was in the center of the house and everything else was arranged around that.

It was difficult at first, and on more than one occasion I told her that I did not like her house or visiting her. Every time I left to return home, I cried. But eventually, over the years, her home became more familiar. Maybe it was because I started leaving some of my things there. Or that as my sisters and I visited more often, we were sometimes together and then had to share a room or fight over the bathroom. Whatever the case, we began to have memories in my mother’s new house and at the center of those new memories was the same person — my mother. She was older, and more rounded as a person to us, and a bit more self-centered than we remembered as children, but she was the same loving, magnetic, energetic person we rallied behind to grow up into fine, adult women. And eventually I realized that wherever she was, was home.

~Audra Easley

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