Well, it's official. My mother has a contract on her property, my childhood home, the one I wrote about here. This is a good thing, as my mother is in her mid-eighties and more or less blind and the property is seven acres with a 50-year old house that is in need of significant work and a horse barn (that was thankfully emptied of its horses right after my father died). In this economy, properties have languished on the real estate market for years and if they sell are selling at very low prices. Indeed, my mother will not receive what the property is probably worth, but after two years of having the house on the market, it is time for her to move on and she knows it.
This brings up a real sense of loss for everyone involved. Her neighbors, who have looked out for her these last years, the ones who called me to tell me that my father had died, who hosted various family members in need of showers when on the day of his funeral the well pump had gone out, who haul off my mother's garbage and recycling and come over to do things like change light bulbs - they will miss her and she will miss them. She has a host of friends, her church friends of all ages and especially the many widows and a few widowers in her community where she has lived for sixty years. There is the lady who does her hair and gives her a ride to church. And the ladies in her book club who continue to meet even though many of them are unable to fully participate - my mother herself can no longer read books because of her visual impairment. The librarian in town, who was a classmate of mine in high school. And all those people who knew my dad who still speak to her about him when they see her around town.
And she will miss her property. The house with its unusual wood paneling in the kitchen and family room, the living room with piano and oriental wall paper. Her corner hutch in the dining room. The large deck on the back with its swing. Her camellias, the butterfly bushes, the flowering quince and forsythia and pussy willows, the bearded iris she transplanted from her mother's home 400 miles away, Pop's grapevine and the fig bush that came from his mother's house equally far away. Her hummingbirds, which have returned to her back yard to spend at least the last thirty summers, even after Pop had to cut down the river birch trees in which they made their nests so that they had to move to other trees. They still come to buzz her when their feeder is empty. (I remember the one that hovered in front of her face, trying to decide if her bright lipstick was worth investigating further or not. Thankfully, it decided on not.) And all the other birds and plants and animals she enjoyed from her deck.
I will miss the property, too. The memories (the good ones at least) of my childhood, of family rituals and visits from friends and cousins and aunts and uncles, the horses, the neighbor's pond, the many dogs and cats we had. The box turtles and deer and quail and owls, although maybe not the snakes. Of playing with Barbies in the cool and slightly musty basement with my friends. My room.
My children will not miss the place so much - my memories of their times at mother's house are different from their memories in which no doubt they found themselves pretty bored, with no basketball goal or internet. But I have good memories of them there as well - the time they found a box turtle, putting on a play in the basement, the time we watched baby birds hatch from a nest the mother wren made in a hanging basket on the porch. Hitting golf balls and throwing footballs in the yard. And especially mowing the lawn on the riding mower with my dad first and then alone.
There is much to do to get ready for the move. I will not have to be involved in too much of the getting ready from that end beyond what I have already done. My work will be concentrated on getting her moved in to her new place just a few miles from my house in Atlanta. She is moving back to the area she grew up in, but sixty of her eighty-five years were spent four hundred miles from here. It will be a big deal for her and for me and for my brother and his family who live near her now. They will miss seeing her regularly and I will now be the one nearby.
And yet in a sense she is coming home. There is family here, too. There are memories here, too. There will be new friends and flowers and birds and we all hope and believe she will have a new life here that offers welcome freedom from the responsibilities of owning and caring for a large property. We all know this is a good move for her. And yet no doubt we will all be processing this for a while.
And so there are only a few more pages to read in this chapter of her life, of my life, of the world as we knew it as a family with a home based on seven acres in North Carolina.