Bidding Farewell to My Childhood Home
Words by Elizabeth Silva
My house was the second on the left. It was the one with a brown, shake shingle roof, and big, weepy trees. The one with sixth grade summer pool parties and endless lip syncing routines. At the heart of the home was my mom—it was always my mom—who happily melted nacho cheese, sliced up watermelon, and pan fried hot dogs for every late night slumber party we ever had. We crafted memories year by year, piece by piece, VHS tape to Betamax, never realizing that 40 years later we would be pulling the door closed behind us for the very last time.
Last June, my parents decided to sell our family home in favor of a newer version in a town two hours away. It is often said that the memories we share about a space and the people who created them make the home, not the physical structure itself. But when it comes to bidding farewell to the place that holds our memories, it is bittersweet.
I recall the story my mom told many times: after a walk-through of its wooden frame and surrounding dirt lot, she and my dad knew it would be the house where they would raise their growing family. Through the construction, they saw a vision of what the future held. All those years ago, they knew that this house would be the sacred spot suitable for a lifetime of memories.
Growing up, the house couldn’t have been more suited to us. Each piece of furniture, musical instrument, carefully hung piece of artwork, and my mom’s curated knick-knack collection were the perfect representation of my family. I can still picture the Christmas my older brother, Joey, and his best friend, Cliff—who lived on the other side of Telegraph—both received a cherry red Westone electric guitar. On most weekends, they were holed up in the downstairs bedroom and played those guitars until their fingers nearly bled. My fifth grade self knew one thing for sure: that someday they were going to be famous.
I recall my younger brother, Phillip, was a master of disguise. My mom, who had a talent for sewing and crafting, created a collection of costumes out of old pillow cases, fabric from the old Yardage Town, and items she found around the neighborhood. He’d sneak around the back hill clad in GI Joe tactical gear, warning us of potential threats. These “threats” were mostly our cat Dillon and dog Daisy Mae, and occasionally the neighbor’s cat, Kush-Kush.
We were a house of pets. My mom, an animal lover and avid rescuer, would come home with newly acquired furry and sometimes feathered friends. She’d mostly tell my dad they had simply shown up at the front door looking for food. And clearly, we had no choice but to keep them!
I remember we were in the backyard. We sat on the vinyl folding chairs that had been there as long as I could remember. Daisy Mae, our 12 year old dog, was cradled in my brother’s arms. We knew it would be her last day. We gathered around as she struggled to find her final breath, each of us whispering our goodbyes into her soft, floppy ears. The distant baritone of my mom’s wind chimes provided much needed, familiar comfort. Daisy Mae’s passing was hard for us all. But knowing that her tiny bones would be buried on the hill under her favorite tree at our family’s forever home somehow made it bearable. I like to think that the new owners left the headstone—which was a colorfully painted brick—untouched.
I can still hear the hum of the TV on football Sundays with my dad. A gauzy haze of sports announcers, cheering fans, and slow motion replays filled my head as I would fall fast asleep on his knee. Our favorite game day snack in those days was fresh salsa with abalone and chips. If we were lucky, my mom would also prepare pickled herring on crackers. There was something so safe about hanging out with my dad inside those warm, protective walls. Everything in the world was right.
Years later, my Babushka came to live with us. She was sick with cancer. She settled into our home bringing with her a fiery and spirited energy. She was ill, but enjoyed sharing stories of her youth in the old country, and tales about fancy dresses at fancy parties. The downstairs bedroom where Joey once played guitar was now the space the cancer would eventually take her.
By then, the house had been remodeled. It would see prom dates, first dates, first loves, a new red tile roof, and the creation of Valarina’s. Valarina’s was a newly constructed Spanish style bar just off the foyer complete with a tile roof and a sign which proudly displayed its name. Oh, the good times that we had there!
When I think about my parents, I still picture them there in the spots they loved most: my mom in the garden watching birds flutter by and my dad in his leather lounge chair. If I close my eyes, I can imagine everything about the home just as it was. I can still hear the creak of the upstairs hallway floorboards, the overly aggressive fan in the downstairs bathroom, and the clicking of the front gate’s latch.
On moving day I stopped over to say goodbye to the house, walking through each room with a memory to share out loud. We laughed and joked about how the new owners would never know about the childhood mural in my bedroom that had since been painted over or how we had made up silly names for each room: The World Lounge, The Pink Room, and Billy Goat Hill. They would never know about the time Phillip cracked his head open on a makeshift wooden slide we had made in our parents’ master bedroom. They would never know that the sturdy, ever-generous fig tree on the side yard was planted by my grandfather for no other reason than the joy he got from watching it grow.
On that last day, as I stood in the entryway peering into the hollow, echoing rooms, it was the moment I knew my childhood was officially over. I pulled the door closed for the very last time, but not before I unfastened the sign from Valarina’s bar in the foyer and tucked it under my arm.
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About the Author:
Artist, musician, and writer, Elizabeth Silva shares relatable life stories about womanhood in the 21st century. Her unique take on life can be found scribbled across the pages of San Diego Style Weddings, Red Tricycle, TODAY Parenting, Spoke, and other local and national publications. Elizabeth lives in Southern California with her husband and a spirited 8-year-old hockey player.