Remember that comforting feeling you had as a child when you thought of home. When you trudged your way back from the park after a rigorous play of cricket or baseball or tag or clambering on the play structures, and you were all sweaty and hungry? And, you thought of your mom waiting for you, glancing through the windows to check if you were coming, maybe scolding you if you were dirty, and then telling you to wash your hands and come and eat dinner?
Your childhood home could mean that. It could also mean a feeling when all your family members are gathered together in your grandparents home with many shouts of laughter, jokes and good-natured insults flying through the air, and lots of food! It could mean lying on your grandmom’s lap practically all summer long, listening to her stories, while she also knits or prepares a list for the next meal. It could mean sitting with your chin cupped in your hand while your grandfather debates with your dad about the stock market or who could win the World Cup.
When you leave your childhood home for the first time for college, you get that sudden panic attack that you’re finally leaving your safe haven, but you’re rest assured, your home, your room, your pet, and your things will be there waiting for you when you visit. Each time you do, you potter through your room, dusting your books and checking your audio cassette collection, slipping in a tape to listen to, cuddling the family dog who follows you around, and you feel safe and warm again. You visit your grandparents and demand the same meals you’ve had every time you visit. Now, it’s you who has debates with your grandfather of who should win the World Cup!
Yes, all those years, you’ve taken so much for granted.
Then, one day, you find that your beloved grandfather is gone, leaving you with a gaping hole in your heart. But, you can still carry on because your childhood home is still there, your parents, your grandmom, your things, your memories are still intact. And, you hug them all and learn to carry on.
Then, one day, you get the call that your spunky grandmother is no more. And, later, while you’re still reeling at the thought of life without her, though she has been but a shell of her former self, your mom gently tells you that she will be putting your grandparents’ house for sale, and that it will most likely be torn down and the place converted into an apartment complex.
You can feel your mother’s sorrow and despair and you vow to go over and spend time helping her carry out the awful task of moving things out of the house. You dread the day but at the same time, you’re happy to be able to go back and see everything just as it always was for the last time.
Except that you don’t. In the year and a half that you took to go back, everything changed. Yes, the house is still standing, but it’s just the shell. After my grandmother left, no one has come to clean or decorate or fuss over the house, as she did, and so everything is in disarray, covered with a layer of dust that clings even to you. Books on the shelf fall apart when you touch them because they have been eaten away by insects. All her tchotchkes and dinner sets lovingly placed inside glass cabinets for display are covered in grime.
You feel outraged for your grandmother’s sake, knowing how particular and house-proud she was. But, you realize how much it probably takes out of your mother to visit the house, and you also know that she has asthma, and you keep quiet. You wipe each familiar piece, desperately searching for something to clutch at, something to take back, to enshrine your past, and you realize that perhaps this is what it means to become old. It’s not the fear of death that make people depressed as they age; it’s the loss of all that is familiar, that is comforting, that is home.
All these years, whenever I made plans to visit India, I felt thrilled thinking I would be going back to my childhood home, which was more than just my parents’ home. And, even though my parents are still doing well, I look at my mom and I know that in a matter of few years, I too will suffer the same way that she must be suffering after the loss of her beloved mother. Thinking of the pain I feel, I can’t imagine how my mother handles the trauma she must feel every time she passes by her childhood home and while she’s looking for promoters to sell it off to.
A big piece of my life was just whisked away from me and ‘home’ will never be the same again.
I’m linking up to Kristi’s Finish the Sentence Friday event. This week’s topic sentence is “When I think about the years…”