On Moving: Three Houses Called “Home”

At this very moment, I have three homes. Soon, I will have two, and not long after that, just one. And it’ll be new, so very new…

A Google search on “moving houses” yields only a few articles here and there on the emotional and, yes, spiritual components of moving houses. A few are good, but ultimately, I’m here now, writing the article that I wanted to read somewhere else.

Why three houses? Simple: I reached the end of my lease in Mississauga and decided to move back to the Hamilton area, having given my notice at the end of February. I found a place just outside of the downtown, and signed a lease that began on April 1st, giving me an overlap month.

And, within that same time frame, my parents sold their house in Brampton, which closes at the end of May. Their house is my house, the house I lived in since I was a teenager.

Past, present, future, as represented by houses.

I’m beginning this in my Mississauga home, with about sixteen days left on the calendar. Been here for two years, the result of rescuing a dog and having nowhere to bring her to since, with two cats and two skeptical parents in residence, it was not possible for her to come home with me.

There’s almost no sentiment leaving my Mississauga house. This home was in a part of the area where I’d had no previous aspirations to live, and to be frank, with the exception of a few local gems, it’s largely unimpressive to me. It could also mean that the significance of leaving this place – the home that was bought for Bella and I, my first foray back out into the world after years of divorce recovery with my parents – hasn’t hit me yet. It may yet, but then again, it might not.

There’s a lot about the place that I know I’ve simply grown to tolerate: the proximity to industries and factories across the train tracks that make noises late at night; the winds that scatter bits of trash everywhere on garbage day; the sheer isolation of being central to business and personal networks between Brampton, Toronto, and Hamilton that largely no longer matters.

And yet, the story of how I got this place, and of the people and arrangements that the Universe seemingly brought into my life to make this possible, will always remain with me as a testament to the realities of love, creation, and possibility.

That’s Mississauga. But I come back to the Brampton house, and within thirty seconds of crossing the threshold of the front door, I feel my heart start to sink.

Now I write from my parents’ house, and I don’t want to hide or disappear my feelings. Doing so dishonours this place. As of the end of May, this will no longer be a special, hallowed place of ours. It will be desanctified, as it were, and so honouring the house while it is still home matters now.

Nor do I feel that it is entirely my choice on how to honour the home except in these little emotional rituals, these photographs of the home, these angles, that mean nothing to anyone else but me, these writings and reflections that no one else will necessarily care about. It’s just what I have to do for myself.

I want so very badly to connect these emotions for an inanimate object to more humanistic themes: the sale as a reminder that Mom and Dad won’t be around forever; that my relationships with my sisters are not as strong as I wanted them to be at this age and that we are now scattered by distance; that I am turning 37 this year and still only now building towards stability and prosperity, with little idea if love, romance, maybe new marriage, or even children of my own growing up in houses of their own are even possibilities, let alone probabilities.

I want very badly to interpret my sadness and grief over a collection of bricks and mortar as a more socially acceptable and arguably relatable theme of entropy, of the unstoppable passing of time and the helplessness of human beings in the face of what Sir Conan Doyle called “the East Wind”, the force that takes us all in the end.

But no. This is about a house I called home, the physical place in three dimensions of space and one of time that was my refuge from an unfriendly world, a safe haven to flee to whenever I needed comfort and replenishment. The one kernel of familiar certainty that existed when all of my other ventures, living spaces, relationships, and epochs in life fell out from under me. The centre of my universe and God help me, it was in Brampton.

Now it, too, shifts under my feet, falling away from us in less than 7 weeks’ time.

I find it difficult to believe that no one else reading this can relate. If you’re moving and are looking for the kind of validation I was for feeling how you feel, you don’t need it, but here it is anyway: it’s okay to feel sad about a collection of bricks and mortar alone. Totally understandable and right to mourn a place for the sake of the place, without having to connect your feelings to other metaphors.

Don’t get me wrong, though: the sale of the house makes sense. Mom and Dad can pay off what’s left of the mortgage and retire to the spacious, renovated basement of my sister’s house several cities away with lots of money left for travel and fun. I completely support them in this decision, even as I grieve the loss of this place. This is simply what they had to do in this economy.

So now it’s down to time, to squeezing every ounce of awareness and experience out of each moment spent in this place before they elapse. Savouring the aspects of experience that cannot be captured in words or pictures for posterity: the lingering warmth of the bricks on the western side after a day being baked by the sun; the precious gap of silence in between the rush of cars in the highway behind the backyard; the combination of the ticking grandfather clock, the almost indiscernable humming of electricity through these unique walls, and the tolling, almost as an afterthought, of the windchimes I bought for Mom during our first Christmas here that hang outside the front door. The smell of home, unmistakable, after a long time away.

Mom had said something months ago that haunted me. We were in Clarence Mall, a place in the industrial, blue collar side of Brampton which we had frequented since I was in a stroller. Many things had changed about the area and the mall itself, and Mom mused, “we used to walk here with your grandpa. He’s been gone so long that it feels like a whole other world. I think time is like that, times in our lives: they’re like whole other worlds, and now the whole world seems different. In one world, we were young and Grandpa was with us. In the next, he’s gone, and we’re older.” Then she paused, turned to face me directly. “One day, there’ll be a world where your father and I are gone, and it’s just you.”

So, yeah, I guess it is also about remembering that they won’t be here forever. It’s also about entropy.

We’re all stuck on this time train, moving inexorably into the future with no chance of deviation or stoppage except in wilful acts of memory. Unless some fluke of evolution occurs that allows me to augment my awareness outside of the time stream and experience each created moment as a stand alone event, I, like everyone else on this planet, am stuck with decay, death, and loss. This is just how it is.

Moments elapse, and with each one, the lifespan of the experience of my home as a living world rather than a blessed memory grows ever shorter. Eventually, all of this passes into blessed memory and static history. Like the last lingering warmth of summer, or the flavour of a delicious, nourishing meal, I savour the death of seconds spent here, an ever present state of gratitude, even if it looks to others like hanging out.

We’ve already exhausted the count of years, and the count of months will soon be gone. Soon, it’ll be weeks, then days, then hours, and minutes, and then one last minute to say goodbye to twenty years and seven months.

By then, I’ll have been in my new home for a month, having said goodbye to my Mississauga home a month earlier. Maybe it will have hit me then, the realisation of loss and missing that place. I guess we’ll see.

And three months from now, we’ll all be, my family, in a new world, in our new homes and communities, new experiences, under a bright summer sun, with the many worlds of this house, and Brampton, and who we were over the course of decades, far behind us in the past.

As I said at the beginning, this was the reflection piece on moving houses that I wanted to read from someone else to give me some kind of social validation to what I am feeling. In the end, it’s validation I shouldn’t have to need, that no one does,even as we do. We feel what we feel, express what we express.

Though it may be a stretch to hope, I nonetheless hope that this relates to some of you, as you say goodbye to your own world of memory in a cherished home, and look ahead to all that is new and bright in the next.

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