The very first key I carried opened the door to the brick house on Jean Ave and I have carried that key my whole life since. It was on my key ring while I dormed in Maine for one semester. I brought it with me to grad school in Wyoming. It jingles on my key ring even now each time I get into my car in Westford. That key opened the door to my house. My house. It had always been my house, though I never owned it and I haven’t lived there for 17 years. There were times I opened the door once a week, and times I walked through every day, and every time I went in I felt completely at home, as if I belonged there. Because I did belong there.
I don’t belong there anymore.
The house was sold to my sister last Friday.
It’s not my house anymore.
When Dad died three years ago, we started calling it Mom’s house. When she died last year, I couldn’t call it that anymore. The house was slowly emptied of things and filled with tension. I called it “the homestead,” “the brick house,” “Jean Ave,” anything to avoid saying Mom’s house because Mom wasn’t there. I mean, really wasn’t there; not her body, not her spirit. And I really thought I would sigh in relief on Friday when the papers were signed; closure, peace. But instead, I got all quiet and grumpy on Thursday in anticipation and cried on Friday morning. I no longer have my home. It didn’t feel like closure; it felt like loss.
There were lots of things that contributed to the tension over this house, things I never anticipated happening, and perhaps those tensions will be relieved with the sale. All the details are finalized and the papers passed; no more animosity or tension over it. I am not sad because my sister owns the house. I wish her happiness there whether she moves in with her husband or passes it along to one of her grown children.
No, what makes me sad is that the home that shaped me, filled with the love of my father and mother is gone. Since Mom died it has not been the comfortable gathering place we all relied on our whole loves. Since Mom died, going there did not feel welcome and safe. So really, I lost my home last year, not last Friday. But over this past year, I’ve used my key, I’ve walked through the door and, if not welcome, felt, at least, entitled to do so. And now I am not. Perhaps my sister will even change the lock.
And I have this key on my key ring that jingles each time I get in my car. And now it is no longer the key to my home. What is it now? Do I keep it on my ring as a reminder of the fortunate childhood I lived? Do I keep it there as a memento of my parents? Do I hang it on the wall, attach it to a chain around my neck? Do I ceremoniously bury it in the backyard?
This is the very fist key I ever carried and it opened the door to love. But the key doesn’t work anymore, so I have to find a new way in.