Friday, October 12, 2012


I grew up in New Hampshire in a little suburban town. For most of my years there, we were in a large house that backed up on woods where we'd build forts with tree limbs and bury treasure in tin coffee cans. Holidays were spent caroling with close family and friends. Bikes were ridden in endless loops around our circular driveway and down our street. My mom had a proud and beautiful garden in the front yard. Birds were everywhere and always adored.

In September, after months of agonizing over the decision, my empty-nest parents decided to trade in their house by the woods for one by the sea. The New Hampshire house is too big, the snow clearing is too much, the town lacking a center and sense of soul. While friends nearby were many, they are also starting to look elsewhere. My parents took the plunge and now move in just under a month.

I flew up last week to help them sort and pack.

While I expected the week to be bittersweet, I was unprepared for how joyful (if exhausting) the whole process felt. We came across my childhood art and stories (I wrote dozens of my own Little Bear books) and letters to Santa (I had Care Bears and a set of little farm animals on the brain) and old letters from camp, dolls and Valentines. We laughed at (and said goodbye to) some truly terrible vacation chachkies, and recounted memories of loved ones, now gone, whose blanket or bowl or pie plate we now treasure as we delicately packed them away.

The most moving aspect of the week, though, was finding mementos of my parents' decades-long relationship. There were books (like a collection of Abigail and John Adams' letters) where my mom inscribed her own deep feelings of love to my dad, notes of tender consolation as they struggled to become pregnant, a note from my father on the back of a photograph of mom reminding her how gorgeous she is, Christmas notes celebrating another year.

Each time I found such a message, I'd bring it to each of them and they'd light up. Dad would blush and beam. Mom would giggle and look his way. Such sweet pauses amongst the chaos of moving.

It's good for the soul and for a partnership to come across these things from time to time; reminders of all that you've been through together, how smitten you have felt and feel, the value of taking the time to record and save such tender thoughts. It's thrilling for a daughter to come across them, too. As my parents move now together to a little town by the sea, they do it very much as companions in all things. It was a delight to be reminded of just how long and lovingly those bonds have been tied. Houses may go, but those assurances stay. I'm proud of them.

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