87: It’s a Stretch

87: It’s a Stretch

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

It’s a Stretch

Bitter or sweet, we don’t want any part of life to be really over.

~Marjorie Holmes

I eye the contents of my life — spread across the lawn and driveway — and the people milling among my own aged bridal presents. There’s someone taking the wooden lazy Susan for a spin. Someone else eyes the plastic salad set, tangerine orange, a shower gift from Aunt Helen. A lady gives me five dollars for another wedding relic: the electric deep fryer, still in its original yellowing box.

How can I do this? Toss the jetsam overboard to lighten our cargo? It’s a hard-hearted action on my part, something I’ve been doing a lot of lately as I close the door on one era and open it to another.

You see, we’re moving, my husband and I, after almost a quarter of a century in this homey, elastic house that stretched with the arrival of each child and now hangs loose from their departures, slack at the waist. It’s time to sort and crate our history, to discard our surplus, to move our memories.

You might say we’re downsizing, as so many people do at this stage. Although the actual square footage isn’t changing so much as are our needs. We’re trading five bedrooms for two, three bathrooms for one and a half, a dim family room for a window-banked home office, a wrecked rec room for a fine photographic studio.

It would be stretching the truth to say I’m totally ready.

After all, this is the spacious two-story that grew our marriage, built our children, and sheltered our dreams. Yet, here I stand, nodding at neighbors, shaking my head at my husband’s quirky jokes as he pawns our past.

“What?” Norm’s voice is incredulous. “You want this fine canteen for a dollar? Why it’s worth at least seventy-five cents.” His eyelid drops in a slow wink. “And I won’t take a penny less than fifty.”

The customer crows and hands over two quarters. Like magnets drawn to iron, others swarm to the table Norm is manning and reach for bedrolls, scout tents, stakes, and mess kits.

Someone buys the redwood picnic table with the attached benches, so solid it takes two muscular men — or one husky teenage boy — to move it each time we mow, no longer practical for people facing both retirement and dwindling upper body strength. The site of hundreds of meals under the proud ponderosa pine, that table greeted scads of vacationers come to frolic in the Rockies. It played host to childhood birthday parties and teen tantrums; it welcomed new sons-in-law; it witnessed the seasons of our parenting.

My eyes widen as women snatch the kitchen items. Really? Who would’ve guessed! Do people even cook anymore? The mountain of rusty cookie tins, gone. Harvest-gold measuring set, minus the 2/3 cup, taken. Three stranded relatives of the Anchor Hocking goblets. Stained bread pans. Aprons and platters and vases and spatulas. Corningware casseroles and lidless stockpots. They buy everything, these bargain hunters, picking apart the expanse of our yesteryears like beachcombers scouring for seashells.

All our stuff. Going. Walking away to live in other homes. Kind of like Norm and I.

“This house has treated you well,” says the dear neighbor across the street, substitute grandma to our youngest child.

I hug her frail shoulders and agree.

Sidling to the shade of the towering blue spruce that anchors the neighborhood and our family nest, I scan the wedge of front lawn where yellow tulips bob in their beds. I pluck a few weeds and think about the gardens in back that need tending.

I turn to wave Godspeed to the matching camelback loveseats. Flexsteel. No place for them in the century-old Italianate we’ve chosen to begin our life-without-kids. I’ve already found a Victorian settee to replace them. The sofas, not the kids.

“Finally. A place for all your antiques,” our children said when they saw the house we bought. None of them expressed regret at the sale of their childhood home and the memories it cradled. Each of them had already stretched out, left home, moved on, and never looked back.

I think of the ancient apple trees waiting in full bloom, the white picket fence, the gracious high ceilings, the spacious office I will call my own. It’s time for us to leave, too.

I’ll try not to look back.

~Carol McAdoo Rehme

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