No Place Like Home

My home is running away from me.

Yes, I wrote that correctly. It’s a simple demonstration of what Jack London might have titled The Call of the Grandchild. When two sisters with three kids between them both choose to live in Washington State, Mom and Dad will follow, and it will be sooner rather than later. The draw of gold panners to the Yukon is a weak thing compared to the draw of getting to be Grandma and Grandpa without the need of plane tickets.

By the time the dust settles, I’ll be the last member of the old team still in the state. By itself, that’s OK. We’ve been scattered before. I lived in Kansas for almost 10 years after college, with co-workers who often asked “You moved here from Colorado? Why?” My sister Carey spent two years in Chicago before coming back to Colorado, while Leslie’s been in Washington for so long that we’re used to celebrating birthdays via Amazon. Through all of it, we knew that blood was thicker than distance, that family endured even when we couldn’t see each other all the time.

But this one’s a little harder.

This time, my folks have sold The House.

The House is where my parents have lived since 1977.  It’s a curious place in a way, more open in the back than the front. According to family history, The House was originally designed to be placed near a golf course and protected from errant shots; when that location didn’t happen, the plans were moved part and parcel to a site on Gay Street instead.

But don’t be fooled by blueprints. That house was open to a lot.

Its backyard was an opening to the galaxy. There sat the three swings that magically transformed into X-Wing fighters when my sisters and I took to the skies; a nearby two-seater was the avatar for the Millennium Falcon.  In the Christmas Blizzard of 1982, it became the ice planet of Hoth; in summers, it hosted backyard baseball games (including, memorably, one broken arm for an unlucky friend).

Its basement hosted tools, plants, books, a half-finished doll house, video games, and an ultra-organized pantry. (FEMA only wishes its planners were as detail-oriented as my Dad.) It was the base for sleepovers, for Bible studies, and for any game my sisters and I could invent. Blackout Tag, where we killed all the lights and searched for each other on our hands and knees, was perhaps not the best idea we ever had, as my black eye could soon attest. (“Tell me again how you ran into a table leg?”)

Every room of its two levels could host similar stories, along with the Rochat Family Zoo. Dogs, cats, a horned toad, birds, a rabbit, and some surprisingly-long-lived fish all called the place home. Looking back, it’s a wonder there was room for people – and yet, it held not only us, but Grandma Elsie as well, who lived in The House with us for a few years and visited often.

When Heather and I moved in with Missy, The House was just a few blocks up the road. It was one of the many things that made a surprising move feel pre-ordained, like pieces fitting together.

Now, The House will make memories for someone else.

It’s a strange feeling.

Ancient Romans spoke of a “spirit of place.” I think any Coloradan could agree with that feeling. We’ve felt the power and even quiet majesty that some locations can hold, from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Sand Dunes. But that power is never stronger than in a place you’ve called home.

When that place is removed, it’s disorienting.

The important things are still true. We’re still a family. We’ll still see each other. The love that was always our real home is still there.

And maybe, sometime, I’ll drop by and meet the new neighbors.

After all, when TIE fighters could strike at any time, it’s only fair to give warning.

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