Life Notes: Don’t Go Changin’
Keeping home a familiar memory

Our adult daughters, now launched in lives that unfold away from ours, have been heading home more now that the warmer season is upon us. That’s the good news.

Generally, Jill, Amy and Nancy arrive bearing bagels, their dogs and a whole batch of strong opinions as their house gifts. That’s the bad news.

When your children become adults, I’ve learned, all bets are off. Everything you thought you knew about life and predictability and who’s in charge fly out the window.

I could never have predicted, for example, how fiercely our daughters would resist change in a place they’ve never even lived in – the condominium that replaced the home we all loved and left behind when we finally succumbed to an overdue downsizing.

Amy, the family member who actually has some design talent, cannot and will not forgive us for selling our old den sofa in a yard sale. Never mind that it was faded and hopelessly outdated. Never mind that last we heard, she hated everything about it, including its color.

“It was a classic,” Amy lamented. The disdain, she now insists, was just a joke.

Like her sisters, Amy lets it be known that she was not consulted on this major policy decision. And like her sisters, she sees “home” as a forever concept, an enduring place that can be trusted but not changed. Not even ever-so-slightly.

All three still expect to find the lamps and tables with which they grew up in evidence. Hadn’t we learned from our crime of actually selling most pieces of their bedroom sets – pieces so reeking of the 1970s that we gave them away with thanks – to anyone who would take them?

But even fully adult offspring like to believe home is not just where the heart is, but also the old furniture, drapes and art too. Change is somehow a violation of their inalienable right to worship the familiar.

Jill, the most reserved daughter, has tastes that collide with mine. I like funky yard sale finds now, which she thinks should go straight back to where I acquired them. Still, saying to Jill, “But this is our house now” feels nasty.

Maybe despite all their independence, our grown-up children want time – and place – to stand still.

“Is that a new fixture?” they all demanded when we dared to change the one in the dining room. Indeed it was. And each of them eyed it with downright hostility. Who would have thought that these sisters who once loved to debate issues of bioethics, politics and religion, would stalk their parents’ digs like crazed house detectives, focusing their energies on the new dishes in the cupboard? Implication: How dare you tamper with the artifacts of our childhoods? The surprises keep coming in a steady, pummeling stream.

When we recently rearranged the angle of the living room sofas, our daughters not only noticed, they looked stricken. Even our sons-in-law, by now accustomed to the way things were, reacted. Two out of the three were clearly not happy that the familiar had suddenly been altered by 90 degrees.

“Don’t mess with the dining room chairs,” the visitors growled when I recently attempted to show them samples of the new upholstery fabrics I was choosing for those chairs. I quickly hid the swatches in a drawer.

No doubt about it, this generation has made its wish known: Keep life predictable. Keep it the way it was. Home, as we’ve always known, is more than a place. It’s a mindset, a fortress, a special kind of miracle.

Change comes hard. Because in a confusing universe, forever is where you find it. And often, it’s in the place you once called home.

May 2015
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