Last year we decided to sell our house on Cape Cod. To say it was a heart-wrenching decision would be an understatement. Our fondest memories of our grandchildren flowed through every room of the house, from the basement up to the second floor and streaming over into the garage. As we began the difficult task of sorting through and donating the many precious reminders of May’s and Eloise’s childhood, visions of my granddaughters busily at play filled my moisture-ridden eyes. How do I part with so many joy-filled remnants of the past? How do I say “goodbye” to a house that served as a happy gathering place for family and friends for so many years?
To ease the stress of sorting through all of the “stuff” that accumulated over the past several years, my husband and I decided to make it a family affair by inviting our children and grandchildren to select items that they might like to keep, items that would appeal to their sense of nostalgia. Both of our daughters have amassed their own “treasures and had little room in their homes to add ours, thus, few items were removed from our treasure trove.
Undaunted by their lack of interest, we put our faith in our granddaughters to help with the clearing out. After all, there were plenty of items that had kept them entertained for hours on end during their many visits over the years: the dollhouse with all its fixings, LEGOs, electric trains, art supplies, the nifty trampoline that they spent hours jumping to the cadence of some atonal music, books, dolls, doll beds, Magna Tiles… They were sure to want many of the items that were always near and dear to their hearts.
To help the girls with the selection process (and to avoid any arguments), we gave May and Eloise different colored stickers: red for Eloise and Blue for May. We told them to go through the house and place their colored stickers on any item that they would want to keep for themselves. Under the watchful eyes of their mother, who constantly reminded them that they needed to be very selective due to limited space in the car, the girls happily went through the house placing stickers on toys, books and pictures. It was an all too familiar scene, one that I witnessed several times when I would send the girls on scavenger hunts throughout every room of the house. Unlike the past, however, this scavenger hunt was to be the last to be held in this house. Once again, the past weighed heavily on the present.
At the end of the weekend, our children and grandchildren packed their cars with the remembrances of their Cape Cod days and took their last look at the house that was a large part of their lives. As I waved goodbye to our granddaughters, my thoughts traveled back to past times when two-year-old May would sob upon leaving the Cape. To ease her pain, we would make funny faces through the car window. Visions of May bravely trying to hold back tears as she stuck out her tongue and scrunched up her little face came to mind. Once again, the past overshadowed the present as I watched their cars leave our driveway.
There was still much packing ahead before the house would be ready to be shown. My daughter Nancy always used the expression, “One person’s yuck is another person’s yum.”‘ That expression resonated with me as I looked at the mass of unwanted toys and varied items left behind in the basement and garage after the girls departed. I sorted, boxed, and donated the many items that would find a new home. My “yums” were on their way to parts unknown.
Later that night, as my husband and I went through the house before retiring for the evening, we came across one blue sticker that had gone undetected during the day, a sticker strategically placed on one of the entry doors to the house. Our eyes flooded as we thought of the depth of meaning behind where May’s sticker was placed. May wanted to keep the house, a house that held so many happy childhood memories. We thought back to May’s early days on the Cape when the world was new to her and each day was filled with discovery. Memories of May on the tree swing; May going into the garage filled with outdoor toys: riding in her battery-operated automobile that was handed down to her from her cousin; May playing in the yard with her little friend Luc; May collecting special pebbles in the driveway to be put into her tiny pocket; and May taking walks around the lake where she learned to identify ferns and Queen Anne’s Lace, were just some of the images that came to mind as we thought about the significance of May’s carefully placed sticker.
The nostalgia of those bygone days continued until we happened upon a red sticker that was carefully placed on Poopah’s money clip. Eloise, true to her nature, managed to add levity to a situation that had the potential to bring her sorrow. There can be no doubt that Eloise would miss the Cape house and all its happy times, but somehow, she managed to find just the right antidote to soothe her pain of departure.
During the weeks ahead, as my husband and I cleared our home of its contents in preparation for its new owners, I came to realize that our house on Cape Cod will always hold a special place in my heart. The memories that I took away from my many years of entertaining friends, family, and sharing precious moments with our grandchildren, will forever remain in my mind’s eye. Thanks for the memories, Cape House!