Today my parents are moving to a sweet waterfront condo that we will reap the benefits of for many years to come. Of course, they're in the downsizing phase which means they sold the house where I grew up. Such an event would normally send me into a downward spiral of excessive sentimentality, but it hasn't. I am (sort of) a reformed nostalgiaholic. I don't remember exactly when I had my epiphany and realized that all my whitewashed memories only got me into trouble, but since then I've been all about moving forward, and when looking back, doing so without becoming consumed by emotion. Still, with this life event, I anticipated some sadness. We went over to the house to help move some boxes and do some final purging of personal relics that had been collecting dust in the attic since I moved out 16 years ago. I walked through the empty, echoey rooms with 34 years stuffed into cardboard boxes. I looked at the sparse walls with tiny holes where pictures once hung, all too aware that Lois wasn't about to rush in with a can of spackle. I waited for the feeling to wash over me, and it wasn't nearly as bad as expected. I almost felt disconnected.
I think there are several reasons for this. First, the new owners are my dear friends JAL and Mike. I know they'll take amazing care of the place and we'll have many new memories there. Second, the house had gone through so many incarnations through the years. Every time you'd leave for awhile and return, the inside of the house was different -- some of the rooms rendered unrecognizable due to my mother's admitted addiction to furniture rearranging. Sometimes the dining room was the living room and vice versa. Sometimes the walls were different colors. Sometimes it took 15 minutes to find the relocated boxes of cereal. When I left for college, I knew my U2 and Cult posters were being peeled off the walls before I hit the Mass Pike and being replaced by watercolors and guest soaps. So, knowing the place was going to change again was really no biggie -- and I still get to visit. Nostalgia nipped in the bud.
But then I was blindsided. We headed over to the new condo where Caroline and Paul had set up a picnic blanket on the floor. We had some D'Parma's salads, enjoying the ocean air. We talked about how nice it'll be to have dinners here, how the kids will love the pool, etc. Then, Lois said: "Oh, we have a new phone number." I pulled my cell out to program it in and saw the old phone number there: 617-569-5438. It's the phone number I'd had all my life, the numbers that dialed home even when I no longer lived there. I was suddenly paralyzed by sentimentality and couldn't bring myself to delete it. It took awhile, but I finally did it. It was the old struggle, overcoming a connection, this time to a now disconnected phone number. 617-569-5438.