For Sentimental Reasons.

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Back in the days when I was feeling sentimental over my old house I used to pass it several times a day. I cried when they threw out the wrought-iron gate, replaced the old wooden mailbox with a metal one, and needed to go home and have a lie down when they ripped out the port-wine Magnolia that stood guard in the front garden, throwing its scent of Juicyfruit Chewing Gum into the street. If jubilation had a smell it would smell like that tree.

I saw people carrying in furniture that looked like it wouldn’t fit into my house. Beige and white couches with stainless steel legs in a Victorian style house seemed conducive to the people in the house always being strangers. A huge dog barked the odds, scaring the possums and tiny birds that played in the hedgerows. I wondered what the neighbours would think.

One day piles of wood lay on the footpath. Old floorboards and doors. I gasped like I had witnessed a murder. For a moment I actually contemplated picking up one of the doors which came from my dining room and dragging it home but I realised this might make people wonder at my mental state so I settled for the doorknob instead which I gouged off the door with an old fence paling.

I have kept that doorknob for five years in my desk drawer. It is cast iron and violet glass. I remember when it was actually attached to a real door in a real room and my son would call himself ‘Mr. Fancypants’ when he turned it because he felt it was really grand and should be on the door leading to a ballroom or a room full of jewels.

I have often removed the doorknob from my desk, holding it up to the light, watching how the violet hues spill across my hand like silk, wondering what if……

What if I hadn’t had to leave my old house and still turned that doorknob on a regular basis? Would my life be any different? Would I be happier? Can sentiment become misplaced and end up being damaging? And most importantly, when is it time to say goodbye to something that is no longer yours?

I said goodbye to the house long ago but the doorknob is harder to let go of. Memories lie within the glass, whirling like smoke. Old thoughts, old hopes. Sometime soon I’d like to attach that doorknob to a new door and turn it into a room that was mine. I think I’ll keep it in my desk drawer until that day comes, waiting.

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19 thoughts on “For Sentimental Reasons.

  1. oh selma,, i would never leave it behind.. that door knob might be the only real proof that beauty ever existed in that house… it sounds as if they have raped her,, have violated her in some unspeakable way……

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  2. see…. now why cant I write like THIS.

    I know how you feel, I recently gave up my condo, and I still drive by it all the time looking to see who is living in MY HOUSE now..and I still cry because I miss it SO MUCH.

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  3. I suppose that is why I have never gone to see my old garden – years have passed and I still wouldn’t go back. If we leave places because we have to and not because we want to, maybe that makes a difference too. Places that we loved stay with us – I don’t sentiment becomes misplaced. It’s more of a reminder of what once was.

    We move on, but mementos are reminders. I think they help get us through those black days.

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  4. The reason I bought my present house was it had potential … I immediately decorated throughout; replaced the carpets and curtains, had a conservatory and a porch put on, pulled up,a couple of bushes and redesigned the garden … and I think every step of the way, the woman across the road said something like ‘Patty wouldn’t like that!’. Fortunately, something stopped me from saying ‘Patty doesn’t live here any more; I do!’ … because I found out later she was Patty’s sister.

    With you on the wrought iron railings, though … if I ever come to live in Australia. my house has to have a veranda and wrought iron railings!

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  5. Some feelings are just plain indescribable. Especially the ones about our past. It can be happy and sad at the same time. Sweet and bittersweet. Even a sense of both discomfort and relief.

    This reminded me of Christmas 2006 when I made my first trip back to my hometown of Manila in 20 years. For some reason, I never felt I belonged there and so didn’t care to even visit until then. You would think it was a joyful celebration. Yet, it depressed me even more. Old thoughts weren’t much help. I could hardly speak the language. I barely recognized the city and house I grew up in. And the tropical climate almost killed me!

    I was lost in my own home. It was terrible. I felt relieved to be back in Wyoming, where the snow, the cowboys and the great wide open seemed more like family. A very weird feeling, indeed.

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  6. PAISLEY – that is such an apt way to describe it. When I saw all my beloved bits and pieces being thrown out onto the street the pain was quite raw. You’re right – that doorknob and I should stick together.

    MELEAH – I know exactly how you feel. You feel dispossessed when you have to move out of a place you really loved. It takes a while to get over it. There will probably always be a little bit of you in that condo and I bet it’s made the energy in there really positive. One day when your book is published and you get on the bestseller lists I know you will be able to buy yourself a condo. Maybe two or three….I have a feeling it’s gonna happen!

    KATE – my friend Jules is an avid gardener and sold her house about six years ago. You should have seen that garden – it was a work of art. The new owners ripped it out and put in pavers. She was heartbroken. I felt like throwing things. Some people just don’t appreciate beauty even when it’s staring them in the face. You are right about the mementoes, they help us get through the black hours.

    NECTARFIZZ – thank you so much. I appreciate the visit.

    TRAVELRAT – that actually is quite funny but I can see how it would get annoying. Patty’s sister was obviously having trouble letting go. I agree with you about the Aussie house – you’ve got to have the verandah and the wrought iron lacework. Makes you feel elegant when you’re drinking your beer. It’s a beautiful thing!

    CHRIS – Oh, what a sad story. I really feel for you. I experienced something similar a few years back when visiting Scotland. It was so different from the way I remembered it and after living in Australia for over 20 years the cold nearly killed me.

    I still love it though but I guess I can no longer call it home and I find that hard to come to terms with. It can be difficult to accept that your place of birth isn’t necessarily the place you call home. As for Wyoming – talk about wide open spaces. I would love to visit it one day. It looks awesome. YEEE HAAAA!

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  7. I think it’s a perfect idea. I see nothing wrong with holding on to something that brings back fond memories. When you install it on your new door it’ll pick up some more memories. 😉

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  8. I have been through such a similar experience, trying to part from the house my husband and I called home for 17 years. I fell in love with the house in 1978 because it reminded me so much of the house I grew up in 800 miles away. That same spirit was there. I felt at home there from the first time I set foot in it. I’ve been away from that house for 13 years now, and I’ve never felt the same sense of “home” in what will always be the “new house” as I did in that old house.

    I *do* go past that old house from time to time and still feel a part of my soul there. The fence my husband built still encloses the front yard. The lilac bush we planted is now ten feet tall. The decorative ceramic number plaques that were a Christmas gift from my husband’s sister still hang by the front door in the frame that he made for them. We left our mark on that house, and I’m sure our spirit is still there inside it somewhere!

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  9. TESCO – you are a real sweetie. And you’re right – there is nothing wrong with holding onto fond memories.

    SAINTPAULGRRL – so nice of you to stop by. That is a beautiful story. I am so glad you still feel your mark has been left on your old house. It’s important to feel your time there meant something. I would love to have a lilac bush in my garden!

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  10. You put so much of yourself into your posts Selma. I can imagine how much of your heart you must have left in your old house. Hang on to your beautiful door knob and even if it never graces another door, it will always be there to remind you of what you left behind.

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  11. We lived in a rented house in Smalltown, Maine for 10 years. It was a wonderful (though musty) 100+ year-old farm house. We kept it clean and well cared for. I put hours and hours and HOURS into a 3 tiered Iris be and babied dozens and dozens of perennials in the front yard.

    Then we moved away.

    Some moths later we went back for a drive-by. All the flower beds were rank with weeds. You couldn’t even see the rocks in my rock garden.

    Last month Mm’s uncle (the handyman for our former landlord) brought us pics of the inside of the house now. The most recent tenant totally destryed the house. Trash, filth, broken doors, shredded carpets, shattered glass.

    I had to leave our little “dinner party” and go hide in a room to cry. It still makes me sad. The old place was a huge part of 10 years of our lives. It was, in a way, like being raped.

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  12. We’ve only owned two houses in our married life. The houses themselves are nothing special, our current one is a bit unique because there aren’t too many 7 bedroom houses around in normal suburbia.

    But we did transplant a bush from the garden of our first house when we moved here. It thrived and is a constant reminder of the early years of our family life.

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  13. BRITT – I really should keep it, shouldn’t I? It’s nice to hold on to the good times in some way.

    GROOVY – I would have been so sad to see the house in that state, especially as you put so much work into it. So sorry. And don’t worry about the editing – you should see my posts pre-edit. Oy!

    ANGRY – did you say 7-bedroom house? Wow. I hope everyone makes their own bed. Hahaha. That is so touching about the rose bush. I am so pleased it thrived!

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