IMG_4038I’ve lived in ten different places in the eleven years since I graduated from college. Ten different places I’ve called ‘home’ for varying lengths of time, ten different neighborhoods, ten different homes that have all looked like variations on a theme because I am a champion nester, ten different zip codes to remember and addresses to learn. And each time I move, I get a little less attached, become less anchored to …anything, I guess. And sure, there’s an element of excitement there, an adventure, a freedom. I could go anywhere, do anything.

I didn’t ever want that adventure, necessarily, though. At least not without some equal and opposite stability. Anywhere and anything gets lonely.

I wrote here last year about the few recent months I lived in my grandfather’s house as an adult and tonight I’m sitting in that house for the last time, writing my way through a big shift again. My family has lived on South Gilpin for more than 70 years, which is about 70 times as long as my average. I’ve spent more nights under this roof than anywhere else except 1137 down the block.

As we sat on the porch yesterday, listened to Dad talk about building the house, took pictures, and sorted through stuff, the weirdly specific memories my siblings and I each have about growing up here came out. For me it’s eating Safeway-brand fudgesicles and the endless stacks of Reader’s Digests in which I read only one feature ever: the Drama In Real Life. For my brother, it’s Poppa paying him a penny for each pinecone he collected from the grass under the trees. My sister was all about SpaghettiOs, which I’ve definitely blocked out. We all remember cutting the thickest slices of Velveeta we could get away with on the cheese guillotine, TicTacs in Poppa’s shirt pockets, and cinnamon gum in Grandma’s dresser drawer.

Other elements are hazy, and I can’t recall some specific details as easily as I’d like. Flashes of images skirt around the corners of my memory and resist my grasp and the house that lives in my mind is a weird mashup of how it looks now (elegant! timeless!) and how it looked when my grandparents were alive (1968 in all its glory).

Then there are the vivid, complicated, undimmed moments. Right this minute, I’m sitting in approximately the same spot I was sitting in the last time Poppa was here. He was sick, we knew, and he called one afternoon when I was the only one home. So I came down to sit with him and Grandma and we watched Jeopardy until he said he thought it was time to go to the hospital.

He was wearing my favorite orange plaid flannel shirt that day. I felt helpless sitting there next to him. I felt good knowing I could be there, that all he wanted was me, sitting next to him. So I did, held his hand, and kept holding it until the EMTs loaded him into the ambulance and took him away.

Just a few feet over is where Grandma always sat, usually with red lipstick on, sometime without her teeth in and a wreath of toilet paper protecting her hair, always smiling. She called each of us “my,” always. My Marissa. My Matt. My Molls. And god how she smiled just for me every time she saw me. I’m so lucky I got to be her my.

I miss my grandparents. I wish they were here. And as I think about them in their home, I know this place has seen so much more than I have been around for. So many other people and events and lives have been lived here. And there will be so many more and yadda yadda we’re all just specks in the universe, I know. There will always be more pinecones.

I figured I’d be able to bring this neatly around somehow to a thematic point or grand thought as I type, but it’s not working out that way and my nose is doing that running-while-crying thing. I think the point I’m trying to get to is that while I’ve moved through the world as an adult in a way I wasn’t quite anticipating, it’s been comforting to have solid, physical things as touchstones. This is the house, block, street, neighborhood I am from and they are familiar to me as home in ways my other stops have not been. I’m struggling to remember that so much of these touchstones aren’t just specific places, but memories and people. And that the memories are mine forever.

Tomorrow I go back to my tenth apartment, to another world, to a different home.

Tomorrow I leave this house for the last time with a heart that’s breaking just a little, and immense gratitude that it’s been such a part of my life.