It's not that my memories of the house are unpleasant. My childhood home is a lovely two-story red brick house, built in the late 1930s. It sits at the crest of a gentle hill on East Avondale Drive, a pleasant leafy street in Greensboro, N.C., a pleasant leafy city.
In some ways, this house was all about me, or at least, that's how I saw it as a boy. My family moved there because of me. I was the fifth child born, the only son, and the house my family lived in at the time was too small to accommodate another member. So the Martins moved into the four-bedroom home in the Starmount Forest neighborhood. And because I had four older sisters, I was the only family member with a room to myself.
Over time, and especially once all us kids had moved out, my mother's collecting took over the house like a slow-growing vine. While most husbands would probably have objected, my father seemed to enjoy her obsessions. She filled every room (except the basement) with whatever she was collecting at the time, then never got rid of anything.
As I recall, her serious collecting began when she won $1,000 in the mid 60s at the Colonial Grocery Store in Friendly Shopping Center. When she came home and told my father, he was so excited he threw the money into the air in celebration. Needless to say, that $1,000 didn't last long, as my mother bought an antique Seth Thomas grandfather clock with most of it.
|My childhood home, painted by my mother (Ruth Martin)|
The house remained in my family for nearly 50 years. In late 2006, we had to move my mother into a retirement home because of her advancing dementia. A year later, we sold the house to a 'flipper,' who has in turn sold it to a family.
So why was the dream of moving back to my childhood home so unsettling? Anxiety is the source of the dream, I believe. Like many people today, worries about making enough money to keep a roof over my head sometimes come out to play when I'm asleep. Moving back into my childhood home is not actually comforting in my dreams; it means I've failed to be self-sufficient.
There's something else going on in this dream, too.
Last weekend, an auctioneer held the first of what will probably be three auctions to sell many of the items my mother collected through the years. My sisters and I have kept this huge amount of stuff in storage for several years now, and we finally decided it was time to let them go, stop the storage facility checks, and try to get some money for our mother's ongoing care in an Alzheimer's facility.
In an e-mail, my sister Nancy reported on the success of the first auction. The grandfather clock, the item that started my mother on her path as a collector, sold for $1,500. Her clown shoes and clown suit sold for $300 (I told you she had obsessions). A telephone table with a fold-up seat went for $270.
And so, bit by bit over the years, my family is having to let go. Of the physical objects that delighted and defined our mother, of the home we spent many happy years in, of the father who provided and protected. In my dream, I long to do what I know is impossible when I awake--to reclaim what is forever lost.