My family is going through some grieving right now.
We're not losing a loved one. We're not losing a good friend, but we're losing something very near and dear to our hearts - our family home in Madison, Connecticut.
This picture isn't all that great, but as you can see the house isn't really an architectural masterpiece.
But it's our home, and it's really special. At least to us.
You see, our home is one of a few thousand in a little gem of a Connecticut town. You drive through Main Street (aka Boston Post Road) and it appears as if time stopped somewhere in the 50s or 60s. People gather at an old time coffee shop (where my sister Mickdizzle put in her time as one of the cutest and most friendly waitresses) to talk about town politics and what the selectmen (New England towns have a different type of government that excludes mayors) are doing wrong at the town hall. There's a quaint little median running between the two sides of the street, always featuring beautiful flower boxes, Christmas trees or American flags, depending on the time of year.
The view at West Wharf
The other thing that makes Madison so special is the water. Truly stunning scenery.
The shoreline runs along the southern most border of town. Six miles of sweeping scapes of Long Island Sound. Easterners know it's not the ocean, but to my Midwestern family, it was just as good. Water as far as the eye could see, distinctive earthy sea smells and the most beautiful shells for the taking.
We fell in love, even though my parents had to essentially pile us kids in the car kicking and screaming for the move from Cincinnati to Connecticut.
When we moved to Connecticut, we set up shop in the worst house on the best street. Town was about half a mile away in one direction, the water a half a mile in the other, but that was pretty much all the house had going for it. The house was literally falling apart. The roof was on its last legs, the hardwood floors (everywhere) looked like somebody took a hatchet to them and the kitchen wasn't fit for even warming up a can of beans. Kind of rough for a bunch of kids who grew up in Subdivisionville, U.S.A..
Kate the Great and her prom date. Oh What A Night in '95.
My mom made it her mission to fix the house room by room. She started with the kids' bedrooms so we had someplace nice to escape to when struggling with the extra dose of angst that comes with moving in your teenage years.
Over time, my mom got acquainted with the crews in town, relying on Peter the Painter and Tony the Tile guy (yes, their real names and professions) and other contractors in town, who worked tirelessly until pretty much every stick of wood in that drafty house was replaced.
By the end, my mom was signing on as the general contractor for the projects - kind of crazy considering she is a woman who embodies the antithesis of hardball.
Lots of special memories were made in that house. Bad ones - Like the time The Bridge and I chased each other around the house, literally pulling chunks of hair out of our heads and leaving deep gouges on our arms. It was the biggest fight we ever had and it only happened because Mom and Dad were gone. Good memories - like our lobster boils on the back patio.
Mickdizzle and her best friend laying out in the baby pool. Mollie the Corgi Attack Dog watches over.
Celebrating Christmas with grandparents, birthdays (especially Mickdizzle's which were my favorite since she was always such a little kid compared to me, and since her birthday is two days before Halloween).
Tough memories - like when Dad was recuperating from his brain tumor. Like when I was home at Christmas break, hiding in the shadows after an exceptionally shitty report card was mailed home.
And good ol' Maureen, the family ghost. She's another story for another time, but essentially the comings and goings of Maureen have made me a believer in the paranormal.
And I guess that's what makes the house on Island Avenue so special. Memories. We've grieved there. We've celebrated weddings (that's me and The Bridge on her big day) there. We've had fights and hugs and heartaches and triumphs and just about every emotion in between.
The Bridge and I used to lay in our beds, talking to each other through the "Brady Bunch" bathroom that connected our spaces together. I remember when I helped The Bridge hide a bottle of rum in my bedroom because she knew Mom and Dad wouldn't suspect it was in there.
I remember when I was babysitting Mickdizzle (then five years old) and she knocked out her four front teeth while we were horseplaying.
That was 14 years ago.
Now my parents are getting ready to close up shop, pack up the house and settle back down in Cincinnati for the Winter of their lives. And even though we're all older and wiser (for the most part) change can still be tough. I know I'm not the only one in my nuclear family to be struck by a moment of crying over the bedroom I'll never see again, the kitchen I'll never laze around in again. The back patio I'll never smoke cigarettes and drink wine on again. Even though I moved out of that house years and years ago, I've always considered it home in my heart.
The wonderful thing to carry us though this new phase is that we'll all be able to make new memories in this next house my parents move into. We'll celebrate things like the birth of babies, marriages. We'll pull together in times of sickness. We'll rejoice in moments of triumph like Kentucky Wildcat basketball championships (I hope).
Thanks for the memories, Madison. Until we meet again...