This week marks another milestone on the ticker tape. If all goes as planned, we will be handing over the keys and deed to our house of eleven years. I was only thirty-five when we moved there, and pregnant with my third child.
We finalized our nuclear family and became a family of five in that house. We raised our kids and a flock of hens there. We made lifelong friendships, started a farmers market on the town common, became actively involved in two local spiritual communities. We said goodbye to my mother-in-law. We changed careers. We decided to go abroad and throw our kids into a different culture and a different language, not knowing that we wouldn’t come back to stay.
I was at the house yesterday, packing up the last of the boxes. I sat down in front of the fireplace in an empty family room, no couch or chair, just the carpet to sit upon. I was struck by the emptiness of a space that once held so much of our lives.
I noticed the longing in myself to touch those memories and enliven that space again. I noticed some fear that leaving the space would make the memories more distant. They felt so close, those memories - they whipped through my mind like a riffle shuffle. As if I could stop on any one and will it into the present moment:
A two-year old boy, dancing through the room in a dress up gown;
a loose tooth tied up with dental floss, eyes squeezed shut waiting for the inevitable yank;
a blanket fort behind the couch complete with pillows and flashlights, stuffed animal friends and piles of books.
I suppose the house will always be a keeper of those memories, like it has been for the generations who lived there before us. Soon, a young family will move in and make more.
In that still and empty space, the words of John O’Donohue floated through my mind:
that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.
May the absences in your life grow full of eternal echo.
May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere,
where the presences that have left you dwell.
Somehow I know that she will be the keeper of those memories, that we might still find them in our hearts, even after the space has become something belonging to someone else.
I feel the sweetness of her embrace and know that, this too, belongs to the exquisite experience we call living.
What absence are you noticing? How might you be present to that absence?
Jessica Curtis is a professional coach who helps people cultivate intention and live from a place of meaning and authenticity. If you think you could benefit from working with Jessica or want to invite her to work with your group, reach out to start a conversation.