I have spent every summer I can remember in my parents’ house in Southampton. Yeah, that’s the view from my window right there. Kinda nice, huh? For most of the year, I’m sad that I can’t travel more: the kids, the cost, the time. But every summer for just about my entire life, I’ve traveled back in time to a place where I was still a kid. Southampton is where I learned how to swim, house to kiss (during a game of spin the bottle, where I watched my own grandmother play volleyball, and marvel that someone so old (she was probably in her sixties!) could actually hit the ball.
I’ve taken my nearly ten year old twins to the house every summer since they were born. That first summer,only six weeks old, they cried endlessly, it seemed to me. And at one point, it rained for 17 out of 21 days in a row. But I didn’t mind, I had them, I had my family, I was home.
But this holiday weekend, when we were all visiting with my parents, they dropped the bomb: they are selling the house. I knew it was coming. The house is big, the property a lot to take care of. My parents are getting older. And now my own kids are going away to sleepaway camp for a big chunk of the summer. The house is expensive to maintain, the taxes high, and with my kids away, I won’t leave my husband alone in the city to sweat it out by himself. My parents aren’t going to ramble around some big house alone all summer so I can come out and be nostalgic for a few weekends
It’s beautiful and everything, but after forty years, they’re ready to move on. I’m not.
Travel is wonderful. I love to discover new places, meet new people, taste new foods. But Southampton, for me, was traveling through comfort and memory to a place that doesn’t exist anymore: my childhood. It’s where the same windbreakers hung in the front closet forever,where no matter how many times we planted carrots in the vegetable garden they never grew. And more recently it’s been the place my kids went to make memories with their grandparents, to really get to know them. They even went to the same day camp where I went as a child. Going to Southampton was traveling home.
It’s hard to believe I won’t be taking that trip again. Of course I could go out for a weekend – or even a day trip. I have friends I could visit. I could even rent some place for a few weeks out of the year. But it won’t be same. Because once the house is sold, an old saying that I never really understood until now will suddenly be clear: you can’t go home again.
I guess not.