"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Friday, December 2, 2011

Taking Only My Memories

Change is hard for me, and there sure has been a lot of change in my life the last year and a half. I know, I know. The only thing constant is change, right? Sometimes though, I wish things could stay just as they are.  Maybe it isn't really change that I struggle with. I guess I'm mostly bothered by change that impacts me emotionally, but that I'm powerless to control. 

Today while reading my mom's blog, New Beginnings are Full of Both Hope & Sadnessher words really hit home. I've been excited for Amy's move, focusing only on the positive side of her new beginning and hopeful about her having a fresh start in a new place. It hadn't occurred to me that the next time I visit her it will be in a different place. Her house holds many happy memories for me. It's hard to imagine not going there again. 

Colorado has always been my second home, and my sister's homes were as familiar and comfortable to me as my own. I've already said goodbye to Julie's place, closing the door on adding to my memory bank of occasions and happy times spent there. I'll probably never again go to Proto's, our favorite spot to grab a drink or a quick bite to eat. It was just around the corner from Julie's apartment. For a while the three of us were very familiar faces there, and we raised our glasses together for more than one of my birthday toasts at their bar.

Gone too are the times spent lounging poolside or in the hot tub at her apartment pool complex. We relaxed there in the freezing cold of winter, and after finishing our first half marathon together.  Other times, we spent long, lazy summer afternoons sunning ourselves, dozing and laughing, just enjoying being together. 
The three of us at Proto's - 2009
My friend Aimee, me, and Amy celebrating my 40th at Proto's
Amy's house, a straight shot across the highway and only 15 minutes away from where Julie's was, is even more full of memories. Having driven from my house to hers more times than I can count over the last ten or so years, I know almost exactly how long it takes from my driveway to hers, including two short pit stops.

My niece Hannah was born not too long after Amy moved to Erie.  I stayed there for almost a week, waiting impatiently for Hannah's arrival.  My mom and I walked around the neighborhood numerous times with a very pregnant Amy, hoping to bring on her labor.  In her kitchen, I prepared a shot of cod liver oil that Amy bravely drank in another failed attempt at jumpstarting labor.  I can still picture Amy sitting on her couch in the lotus position, while my mom and I left her alone for some quiet time to focus on inducing labor.  We laughingly left her house, teasing her to hum the mantra "open, open, open" and to visualize giving birth.  She didn't think we were funny.   I did get to see Hannah's birth, and remember vividly her first hours at home, with her dad snuggling on the couch with her cradled in his arms.

Nearly every spring and summer, Gillian and I would spend some time at Amy's.  Our kids have spent many nights together in her basement, laughing and giggling, finally falling asleep on the blowup mattress or in a fort they built.  Together Amy and I have played the Easter Bunny, filling Easter baskets late at night for the kids to find in the morning.  We've celebrated the 4th of July there, birthdays, Fall Break, Christmas and New Year's.  After my divorce I went there for the Christmas holidays, seeking refuge and comfort, and found it, laughing and talking with my sisters together at Amy's.  The three of us used to lie in Amy's big king-size bed together and watch t.v.  Amy's husband would come home from work late at night, finding us there, usually giggling, and roll his eyes that we'd taken over his bed.
Amy in her kitchen showing off her 4th of July blueberry pie.
Julie & Amy belting out tunes in Amy's living room , with candlesticks as microphones.
Many of the happiest moments of my life, and some of the saddest, have happened at Amy's yellow house on Woodson Drive.  I've run through her neighborhood, happy, carefree, content, soaking up the view of the Flatirons in the distance.  I've also run through it full of sadness, with tears flowing freely, sobbing, in the early days after Julie's death.  Her back deck is a favorite gathering spot in the summer, and we've all spent many pleasant summer evenings together there.  It's also where I sat and wailed, screaming, demanding, insisting "I need to see my sister! Now! I'm not waiting any longer!" three days after her death, when I was told I had to wait one more day to see her body. In every single room, behind every door in her house there are memories--some bad, most of them good. Some of the most formative times and events of our lives happened while she lived there.  Our kids have gone from being babies and pre-schoolers to pre-teens and teenagers.  We've both gone from being married to being single and having to learn how to make a new life on our own.  

There's a song called The House That Built Me that makes me think of how I feel about this move.  It starts out "You know they say you can't go home again".  It's true.  You can't go home again, and Amy's house isn't even my home.  But, it is home to some of my most precious memories.  It's knowing that I can't go back there and revisit the memories that makes me wistful.  Knowing I'll have them in my mind doesn't seem like enough.  I want to be able to see, touch and feel the place where the memories were made, like a touchstone for my life.

When Amy walks out the door of 447 Woodson for the last time, I understand how hard it will be for her.  It's going to be hard for me too. Along with many others, I'll be holding her in my heart on that day, and looking forward to making new happy memories together in her new home.

Click here to listen to The House That Built Me.
Me & Gillian - ringing in the New Year at Amy's
Easter at Amy's - 2007
Julie's birthday at Amy's - Easter 2007
Hannah, Gillian & Atticus shucking corn on Amy's back porch
Family in Amy's front yard - Summer 2011


  1. I can barely read because of the tears. Hold Amy tight, very tight, as she begins again. She is ready for a new beginning, one with much happiness and peace.

    I will leave the bitter memories behind, and unfortunately there are some, but I will treasure the happy memories that were built because a big, happy, crazy, loving family spent much time being together in that place where together we came together to love, laugh, and celebrate each other. Even in grief, we were sheltered together at Amy's.

    XO Mom

  2. Such a hard thing to move from one home to another, but your family is very close and speaks about these things rather than burying the feelings. That's really helpful in being able to move on. I'm glad you are sharing it with others, as we all deal with change with difficulty and it helps to see your process.

  3. It's not the location that's important. You're right that you will hold those memories in your heart...and the heart goes with you wherever you go. I've revisited some of the important places in my life and even though it was fun to see them again with fresh eyes, the magic was gone. The power is in your memories.

    As the good witch Glenda says, "You've always had the power."

  4. I wish all of you peace during this time of transition. I do not know your stories, but I do know the pain of loss - I lost my daughter. And since then I've moved five times.

    I forgot about the good witch, Glenda. =)


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