My parents are selling my childhood home

I keep bursting into tears at the thought of losing this place filled with so many memories

Published August 31, 2010 12:27AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

My parents are selling my childhood home and where they have lived for the past 26 years and I am completely distraught.

I am 24 years old and lucky enough to be living and working in a major city two hours away from my hometown in New York. I am content with my life here and am very excited for my parents' new house, but the thought of them retiring halfway across the country and selling the home I grew up in brings me to tears in an instant. I am normally an upbeat and bubbly person, but I can't even think about losing the house I spent so many years in. I am an only child; growing up was very lonely at times and that house was my world. While I am very close with my small family and my high school friends, discussing the subject makes everyone upset so I avoid it.

On the other hand, my boyfriend, roommates and friends here in the city are supportive, but don't understand me at all as they all have large families scattered around the region and few friends at home. They know this type of emotional and depressed response from me is not normal, but I feel like they're just brushing me off as overreacting. How can I come to terms with the move?


Dear Childhood-home-less,

I think you have to go to this home and walk around and spend some time there and say goodbye to it. You have to sit there on the lawn or in the backyard and sketch or take photos or write something, and put some pieces of this house in a container to keep. Maybe you can take some soil and some paint and some things, a favorite thing or two from this house. You need a ritual. You need a way to say goodbye.

That's what you should do. Go to this house and spend time there and say goodbye to it. Talk to the house and let it talk to you and make your peace with it.

There ought to be rituals for the leaving of houses. But we just call the movers.

This is an opportunity to learn how to gracefully let go of things.

Letting go of a childhood home is particularly hard. As children, we often dream that the house will be ours legally and financially the way we have always thought of its being ours spiritually. So that way the spiritual, the emotional and the financial could come into harmony. But that is not what happens with real estate. Because we are not connected to the land the way our souls are; there is an intermediary layer of commerce between us and the land our souls love and feel kinship with. The land is a legal object, legally separable from the trees on it, legally separable from its status as earth. Strange, but that is how we have found it possible to be so mobile and do so many things.

The house is not yours. It's as simple as that. Maybe you thought it would be yours, and maybe it could have been yours if things had turned out differently, but no.

These are hard truths to bear. Letting go of the childhood home is about growing up. Growing up is about accepting what is ours and what is not ours. I am speaking as much to myself as to you when I say these things. It is painful. That is about growing up, too -- learning to bear the pain of loss with grace. I have felt so awful about the places that have gone through my family. I have felt that these places were mine but they were not really mine. I was not the titleholder. Yet I wished for other people to hold on to them for me. I was not willing to buy them myself. That's the hard truth of it. I thought others should hold on to them because I thought that was the right thing to do, the way it should be.

Oh, save us from the torment of knowing the right thing to do!

I could have bought the land my mother lived her last years on because it so pained me to think of its being sold, but in the end I let it be sold because it did not make financial sense for me to borrow the money to buy it and keep it and pay for it every month just so it would be there so I could hike up there once a year or so. I had to let it go. I have a life in California. I have a house.  Yet it made me very sad to see my mother's land go -- almost as sad as it was to see my mother herself go!

It was the end of a dream, really -- the idea that my mother would keep that place and we would all gather there and be a happy family.

So now, these days, I think I will be happier if I learn to let go of things more quickly.

Let go and move on and keep skipping down the road.

Maybe you can learn this, too. Maybe you can summon your best memories of this place, and  give form to them in a set of photographs and memories. Maybe you can write something long and detailed about this house and keep it, or give copies of it to people so they know how much this place meant to you. Maybe you can make one last trip there and take photographs and sit on the porch for a while.

And then let it go.

Write Your Truth.

Want more?


By Cary Tennis

MORE FROM Cary Tennis

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Family Since You Asked