The Big House

Look within. Be still.
Free from fear and attachment,
Know the sweet joy of living in the way.
— From the Dhammapada

My big house is not a prison. Far from it. It’s the home my wife, Carol, and I bought in 2000 and moved into with our sons Carl, then 5, and Thomas, then 14, along with our au pair, David Zavrel, from the Czech Republic, and my West African gray parrot, Maxine. We soon added a 100-pound Labrador retriever named Abby.

We moved in that July so that Carl could start kindergarten and Thomas could start high school in our new community. We’d had au pairs since Carl was 2, and would for a couple more years, but because they could not work in the U.S. for more than a year, we got used to a lot of goodbyes to young men and woman who felt like members of our family. David was the most, uh, memorable. He knew how to send me into a rage just for fun, like when, with me close by, he told Carl: “If you don’t score a goal and win your soccer game Saturday I’m going to drive you to Mexico, and you’ll never see your parents again.”

Thomas Carl Carol Cropped
Thomas, Carol and Carol circa 2007.

When Carl was 8, we said goodbye to the last of our au pairs, but we stay in touch with a couple of them and visit from time to time with our first, Sarah Harris, in England. In 2010, we had to say goodbye to Abby, and before long we brought home a puppy and named her Julie.

Children, though, are not replaceable. Carl’s education took a detour that led to 83 days in a recovery center and a fresh start in a city 130 miles away. At the age of 21 now, he has been clean and sober for two and a half years, and we’re proud of him, but he is no longer a daily part of our lives. Thomas died last spring at 29 in a skateboarding accident. Ali Mulhi, an exchange student who lived with us for a school year when Carl was in 11th grade, comes from war-torn Yemen but now goes to school in Saudi Arabia. We stay in touch via Facebook, and he still calls us Mom and Dad.

Our big house is full of memories — memories of sound and clamor, proms, complaints, quarrels, wrestling, TV sports shows, Baywatch, comings and goings, extra cars in the driveway, missing beer and wine from the cabinets, “friends” we later learned were druggies, a toilet-papered front yard.

Now the time has come for us to downsize, and today we closed on the purchase of a home just a few miles away that’s half the size and mostly on one level. We won’t move from the big house yet — haven’t even put it on the market. We’ll take in slow in order to avoid as much stress as possible.

I’m eager to leave the memories, Carol less so. The space here feels empty to me. I’m aware of what’s missing. But I think we both understand the Buddhist concept of attachment. Clinging to the past is one form of attachment; fleeing from it another.

And we have helpers in this transition. Our utility bills encourage us to downsize. Our aching joints ask us for one-level living. So by the spring we’ll be in another home, perhaps our last move. And we’ll be saying goodbye to our big house,

— Mel Pine (Fearless Lotus)

Copyright 2016 © Mel Harkrader Pine

6 Comments Add yours

  1. What a lovely poignant post full of memories and pain, and love. Here’s to starting new memories in a new house! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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