The House Holds It’s Breath


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

I Met Someone


I met the most fascinating woman last weekend! Although I went to high school with her son, I’d never known anything about Jean before now.

But in meeting her, and getting to know a little bit about her life, I found myself enchanted with this older lady.

Jean was born in March, like me, but her birthday predates mine by 33 years. Even so, I felt like we were kindred souls.

I learned last weekend that Jean was born in the small city of Berlin, NH. My family has been going on vacation in the same area for almost 50 years, and I know Berlin very well! That was one thing that made me feel a connection. Jean described looking up at the beautiful Presidential Range which overlooks the city, talking about how deeply she appreciated the beauty of the spot.

It could have been my husband or one of my children talking! That range is their favorite place in the world.

As I learned more about Jean, I also learned that she loved music intensely. In fact, she loved it so much that she defied her penny pinching father by renting an instrument in his name and taking lessons that he ended up paying for. I laughed out loud at that story.

Like me, my new acquaintance was a young nerd. I’m pretty sure I’ve never been as smart or as studious as Jean, but like her I have always loved to read. We both love to learn new things, even as we age.

What I liked best about Jean, though, was her life philosophy. I can’t remember her exact words, but it was something like this: “To find as much pleasure as possible without hurting anyone.”

I want to be like her. I want to be as full of joy. I want to be as dedicated to enjoying my life.

I’m so glad that I got to meet Jean. I wish I’d met her years ago, when there was still time for us to be friends.

You see, Jean died last February, at the tender age of 95.

I was never lucky enough to have actually met her.

But Jean was a writer. She recorded the stories of her life. She wrote with love, and with humor. The warmth of her voice as a writer pulled me in and allowed me to feel like her friend.

What a gift!

Many thanks to Stacy and Louise for sharing Jean’s story with me!