On Moving and Memories

I’ve just moved, again.

This move wasn’t very difficult, as far as moves go. And it’s definitely a change for the better. A change I am grateful for.

But still—a change.

The strangest part of moving for me: each time I move I feel like I’m leaving my memories behind, caught in their old places like butterflies pinned behind glass. And I worry that I won’t be able to access them as easily, that without those specific stairs to walk down, I won’t be able to remember the baby who flung out her arms with each step, afraid of falling, so that I had to learn to hold her tighter, that without the rectangle of dirt next to the patio fence, I won’t be able to recall the traps that were built there, peanut butter spread on cardboard, small faces peeking out the window, in hopes of catching Big Foot, that without the same sliding closet drawer I won’t be able to hold onto the image of the toddler who always yanked it open and threw out socks with all her might.

And going further back, to my childhood homes: I can never return to the patch of fuzzy carpet where the sun fell just-so, right by the bookcase, so that I could pull out a book and lie in the sunshine and read; or to the view from my bedroom window, with the field and the black walnut tree and the creek where a blue heron would come, always poised, always elegant; or to the underside of the row of redwoods in another backyard, where baby bunnies were born, all eyes-closed and pink-nosed and tiny.

To me, memories like these feel tied to their houses, their apartment, their yards, like fish bound to the sea. Yes, I can always throw a fishing line into my memory, tug around see what I can find…

But it’s never quite the same.

I know that our new home will soon become just that: home. That we’ll play games and scrub floors and make waffles and, soon, I won’t have to fumble, searching for the light switch in each room. I’ll know if the oven runs a little too hot or a little too cold, and we’ll quickly figure out which is the warmest room of the house in winter. And I’m grateful for that. I am. I’m deeply thankful for the happy moments, for having a warm and safe home in the first place.

But even as I’m grateful for the new, a small part of me always misses the old.

That’s why I don’t like driving by my past homes. Because I can’t help but hope that if I stop my car, if I get out, everything will be the same, that I’ll go inside and the right baby will be waking up from her nap, cheeks soft and rosy from sleep, and the right smell will be in the kitchen (chocolate chip cookies, of course), and that, somehow, while I’ve been away, everything will have stayed the same, so that I’ll be able to go back into the past as easily as walking through a door.