Sunday, March 05, 2017

Cleaning Out

I wish I had taken a picture of that chair.

Ever since I got my smartphone I’ve enjoyed snapping photos of just about anything that catches my eye and slapping it up on Facebook.

Interesting graffiti, old buildings, theater marquees, restaurant signs, and selfies all get the social media treatment.

The other morning I was walking up to my gym when I saw a tiny chair sitting outside a house waiting for the sanitation crew to take it away.

I thought it would be a nice picture to put up on Facebook along with a wisecrack in the comments section. But I was running late so I kept going.

As I walked on I started thinking about how the discarded chair meant that someone in that house was getting bigger and leaving a part of his or her childhood behind forever.

It’s been a six years since we sold our parents’ house, when we had to throw out or give away toys, clothes, furniture, and God knows what else before we could put the place on the market, and that little chair brought back this memory from the Seventies.

My oldest brother Jim had gone to Eastern Michigan University and during his first visit to the family home on Senator Street we made sure to go see our aunt in Manhattan.

The second she opened the door my auntie took one look at my brother and burst into tears.

I was young, in my late teens or early 20s, and so chronically full of attitude that I just couldn’t bear this emotional display. What is this woman’s problem, I thought. Madam, please get a hold of yourself.

You Must Remember This…

I didn’t understand it at the time—I didn’t understand much of anything at the time--but my aunt was recalling my brother as a child and seeing him as a young man all grown up and back from college was too much for her. All of a sudden he wasn’t a child anymore.

The years went by, I became an uncle, and one afternoon I called my oldest niece, Kristin, who was about to start her senior year of college.

My parents were gone by then and I was living in the house alone, silently dreading the day when I’d have to leave and total strangers would move in.

Summer was almost over and I was sitting on the front steps and looking out on the street where I spent most of my life.
Kristin, who has since graduated, did most of the talking during that phone call and I happily listened as she gave me a rundown of her plans. And at one point I couldn’t help but laugh.

“You know, it seems like it was just last week you were sitting on my lap going ‘wah,wah,wah!’” I said.

We talked some more, I wished her well and we rang off. And then I started thinking that it really did feel like it was just last week that my niece was a baby, with a small chair of her own.

My parents were alive, the house was ours with no thought of selling the place, and we made regular trips over to my brother’s house to see little Kristin. And now that was all gone.

As the tears rolled down my face I finally realized why my aunt had cried that day she saw my brother.

I hope the people who discarded that little chair treasure the good times and I hope that some day the chair’s former occupant will be able to look back on some beautiful memories.


Ron said...

Beautiful memoir, Rob! And it's funny because for the past several weeks, I've been thinking (reminiscing) about my childhood; especially the home my family lived in and feeling very melancholy.

Have you ever seen the movie, The Trip to Bountiful (1985), with Geraldine Page? OMG, it's such a beautiful story about an elderly woman who takes a trip back to her family's home to see it one more time before she dies. What a tear-jerker, but it's so worth watching.

Great post, buddy. Have a super week!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, it can hard to keep from being melancholy some days, can't it?

I haven't "The Trip to Bountiful" but I'll put it on list. And I'll keep the hankies handy!

Take care, buddy, and have a great week!

Bijoux said...

I often cry while my son is away at college and I've come to realize it's not because I miss him being here as much as I mourn the sweet little boy that he was.

Rob K said...

Oh, Bijoux, it's so sad. Time only goes in one direction.

A Cuban In London said...

What a lovely post. It really touched me. I wish I had kept many of the things I had as a child but relocating to a different country meant that I had to chuck stuff out.

Greetings from London.

Rob K said...

Oh, thank you so much, brother! I can't even imagination what moving to a new country would be like. You must have made some very hard choices.

I had a hard time moving to Connecticut!