There is a memorial garden in downtown Concord, North Carolina. It's absolutely beautiful and simply charming. On the street right beside the garden’s entrance is an art gallery. A tiny little one room art showcase.
The last time I visited the garden, the gallery had a hand written sign on the window. Printed in block letters, it said, “We have closed permanently due to low traffic and high construction. Thank you for your patronage.”
It immediately brought to mind the scene from You’ve Got Mail where Meg Ryan is forced to close her bookstore. As she walked away for the last time, the sign on the door read, “After 42 years, we are closing our doors. We have loved being a part of your life.”
I sobbed at that point of the movie. Number one because a bookstore closed, but followed by a close second because of the memories contained there. Ryan could see herself there as a little girl twirling around with her mother. The memories were certainly cherished and seemed to be, in that moment, confined to that location.
We always talk about our memories as if we own them. We do hold them dear in our hearts and minds, but sometimes it feels as if those memories are also held in the walls themselves.
The other night I was on my way home from an evening spent with friends. It was pretty late. The heat of the day had dissipated and there was virtually no traffic, so I was traveling home with the radio up and the windows down.
Making my way down Providence Road, I looked over as I passed the house where Paul’s mother used to live. Set back from the street, nestled behind a thick hedge and a copse of stately magnolia trees, stood the house, now dark.
In my mind’s eye, the lights still blazed, and all of us still scurried and hurried to get dinner on the table. The atmosphere was raucous at best. The loudest person had the floor, and not a single person ever acquiesced gracefully.
Even though we “kids” were in our 40s and 50s, when we arrived for Christmas, we were kids. We helped, although I’m not sure how much actual help we were, but we weren't responsible for the meal or anything really. We fought over who had to clean the kitchen and generally created havoc for the ones who lost the bet, and then we all went upstairs to the living room to play board games until the wee hours of the morning.
Paul and I would routinely be there till three or four in the morning, head home to rest for a little while, and then go back over the next day to do it all again.
The first year Madi was with us, I said my goodbyes early and explained that I was going home to put the baby to bed. My sister-in-law said, “So, you’ll put her down and then we’ll see you back here in about 30 minutes?“ Keep in mind she was 32 years old at this point. That’s truly how much we were “kids.”
There were times when Paul and I were tired, when we wanted to stay home and rest, but we were always so happy when we got there. Sure there were times when there were squabbles, but the next day was a new day and just like little kids, hurt feelings were forgiven and forgotten.
It’s been several years now since those Christmases of our “youth,” and while we “kids” cherish our times together there and our memories, sometimes I think that house misses us too.