Home, Blankets and Old Jeans

I’m thinking of home again, of the life we left when we vacated a house and neighborhood we’d lived in for almost 15 years. Every once in while, this past brushes up against my skin and, unguarded, the tears come. Like fringe on an old blanket, the faint and gentle threads of this past linger. I knew the blanket so well, knew its threads, the way they fit together and moved. But the fringes are different. Thin and lacking substance, fringes are like ghosts. I feel them unexpectedly, brushing up against a new day in a new place, and suddenly I remember that old blanket that was home and neighborhood and haven. In a cool draft, I miss its warmth and mass.

Change enters our streets. Decisions alter life’s course. And the heart follows in transition. Like a pair of worn-in jeans that finally meet their end, the past is cast off. With movements lithe and rhythmic, that cast off life had felt just like my own skin. But the new jeans of a new house and hood resist my skin and the movement of my limbs. It is a strain to make this new fabric move for and not against.

For me, the tears come simply from change – not bad change, just change. And I mourn the loss of a neighborhood, the loss of easy friendships for my kids, the names and faces of our old street. I miss knowing the insides of the houses where my kids played. I miss the neighborhood kids who knocked on the door and played in the front yard. I miss the hound dog next door, the one that kept escaping and then miraculously reappearing. I miss my quiet animal-loving neighbor and the son in the wheelchair who passed away this year. I miss my neighbors with the grey hair, the ones whose age and wisdom added perspective to the streetscape of life. I miss the crazy lady across the street, now long passed, who used to wander half-dressed in front of our house when her wits at last gave way (trying to coax her back inside her house was always a challenge, a challenge that made life in a neighborhood colorful and uniquely our own). I miss the feisty neighbor who battled a chronic and ultimately terminal illness. She yelled at me one day for letting my contractor drive a front loader up and down the street and yet took so much joy in dangling seasonal decorations from the tree at the start of the street, that we fondly dubbed her the tree fairy. And I even miss that tree, that sad little Crepe Myrtle that kept getting knocked over by a school bus trying to navigate its median. Every time it would recover, it seemed it would get knocked over again.

I glance out the windows of a new house, across a new street. It’s a pretty street with lots of neighbors and kids and dogs and sidewalks. We’re beginning to know some names. The barefoot little girl, padding one-footed down the sidewalk has a name, some sisters and parents we’ve met. The boy next door knows my Ellie and invites her to play. I have plans to meet up with some women on the street for lunch tomorrow, new names to learn. I don’t but do want to go. I just hate starting all over again. And these new jeans I’m wearing are still feeling stiff. One day they’ll work for me, but today I’m really missing the old ones.