It was as though time had been frozen here since 1992 — the year I moved off to college. My parents left my childhood belongings virtually untouched for 30 years. For 30 years, I could go home to Irvine at any time (yes, I always referred to it as “going home”), peek into my bedroom, and be taken right back to when I was 18 years old and freshly graduated from high school.
I could fiddle with my old Transformers and Robotech toys. I could rifle through my dusty cassette tapes and reminisce about the music I listened to as a kid.
Oh, look. Depeche Mode. I’m still into them. My band even plays their songs …
For decades, this house was the entirety of my mom’s life. Even after I moved away to college, even after my sister moved away to college, even after my dad decided to take a job in Taiwan, my mom stayed and continued making this house her home. Her presence could be felt everywhere, from the exotic plants covering the backyard … to the boxes of gift items she no doubt bought on sale, but never had a chance to give away … to the piles of rolled up grocery bags that she diligently saved, but never got to reusing.
My mom had a morbid sense of humor, and she always said that she wanted to die in this house. One of my greatest regrets is that I wasn’t able to help her achieve her … uh, goal in life? Is that what you’d call that?
This house was my mom. And that’s why choosing to clear, remodel, and rent it out was the hardest decision I ever had to make. Seeing my mom in a vegetative state … watching helplessly through my dad’s phone camera as she died 7,000 miles away … those certainly weren’t easy experiences.
But they weren’t decisions I had to make.
This one, though, was my decision. It was my call to remodel. It was my realization that it made zero financial sense to let this house sit empty, to hold onto this piece of comfort for over two years.
And so, I did it. I think my mom would have been happy to see how the house turned out — and how we even wrote into the lease that the tenant is responsible for taking care of her prized fruit trees in the back and side yards. That brings me some joy.
The comfort this house offered me — for 30 years — was indescribable. Even after my mom passed away, even as the house sat empty for over two years, I could still “go home to Irvine” and feel her presence again.
But today is different. Today, I’m taking my final walkthrough of the now-empty house, one day before the new tenants move in. Aside from the fruit trees, everything that represented my mom is gone. My mom’s presence is gone. And I realize …
It’s not my home now. I won’t be going home to Irvine anymore.