The house is sad.
Sitting in the kitchen, listening to the sound of the humming refrigerator, I’m struck by the absence of life. I’m surrounded by echoes. I feel the sadness on my skin, and in my ears, a pressure of all that isn’t here.
There are no voices. No kids are arguing over whose turn it is to wash the dishes. No teens are singing along to transistor radios. There are no TV jingles reminding us to buy the right floorwax.
No smell of dinner fills the house. Pans are not rattling, silverware isn’t being spread. The microwave doesn’t beep.
Mom is asleep again, snoring in her favorite rocker, her little gray cat curled in her lap. I’m careful not to wake them, even though the sun is shining on this warm October day.
The house is sad. Its walls have soaked in nearly 6 decades of life. All the rushed mornings were here, in this kitchen, lunches packed and handed out, breakfasts eaten and cleaned up, bodies large and small clomping through from room to room, elbows crashing, chairs scraping, “have a good day”s called out and back.
All the dinners were here, someone setting the table, someone yelling for napkins. Mom at the stove and the oven, putting steaming dishes in front of us as we gathered around this table. Kids talking about school, complaining about homework, reminding Mom and Dad about upcoming field trips and practices. Math done at the table, the tv on in the living room, someone taking a bath.
There were arguments here, too; shouts, tears, anger and guilt. The walls and the floor held all of it in, wrapped it up and kept it contained. There was pride and competition and sadness. And there was joy, celebration and a lot of silliness. There were kids giggling as Dad made Saturday morning pancakes.
Now all is quiet.
I look down into the front hall. The front door, now closed and silent, used to swing open hundreds of times each week, neighbors and friends and kids and relatives swooping through it and up the stairs, into the sound and the light.
That’s how I remember my childhood and adolescence. I remember it with all of my senses. I recall our life here as noisy, delicious, bright and warm. I can feel myself standing at the kitchen sink, looking out into a winter evening, safely coated in the warm yellow light of the house. Everyone I loved was inside these walls with me. There was nothing outside that could hurt us.
I remember our family life as always busy, always moving, always crowded to the point where sometimes I’d go into the bathroom just for a minute of solitude. There was often music, sometimes an old musical on the record player, sometimes the theme songs from the TV. Best of all, sometimes the music was Dad’s off-key crooning of “Where the Buffalo Roam”.
I smile as I remember it. I look into the dining room, feeling the press of voices at every holiday and birthday, feeling the vibrations of sound against the bottoms of my feet. Seeing the table covered in dishes, wine glasses, coffee cups and plates of food. I hear adult voices arguing about politics and sports, waving hands and trying to out shout each other.
But today all is quiet. Even the refrigerator is still. The house is sad.
I think it’s waiting. Old photos, dusty books, long forgotten toys in the backs of closets.
All of it makes me sad. I know that the house feels it too. This structure that has only known one intertwined, passionately emotional, typical and special family.
I can feel it holding it’s breath. Waiting for the change that has to come.
We’re waiting, too. We feel the very same echoes in our hearts.
We are all sad.
“Suburban House” by beautifulcataya is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
5 thoughts on “The House Holds It’s Breath”
That perfectly describes that wait.
I’m very sad tonight. Yes, it does describe it. I came home from Mom’s and told Paul that I never want our house to have to feel that. I want to be alert and alive as we turn it over to some young family who will fill it again with life and children and messes and joys and tears.
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Yes, houses know.
This was exquisitely written — you captured the past and the present so beautifully.
This one should go in your book of columns.
Ah, my book of columns…!
So feel this one. My kiddos are still here, but my oldest is going to finish college in a few years. The silence, while not here – haunts me from the other side.