We grow up being told that the most important things in life are not 'things', but without noticing, little by little we become attached. We associate emotions with objects until one day those objects become much more than just 'things', and it is then that we place materialism in its best disguise. I must admit; I have recently fallen into this trap, a trap that is now placing me in an arduous position, where I am faced with the difficult task of letting go.
The story begins sixteen years and five months ago when a new-born Frances Fischman was first brought to her home. I was born an 8-month old baby, I was of very small size and pretty fragile, but there was something about the house that nurtured me and kept me strong. After I arrived home, I began to grow, and soon I became a healthy, active toddler. But this isn't the story about how I survived being a premature baby, this is the story of how I grew up, and my house did so too, right next to me.
Over the years I have lived here, my house has gone through some drastic changes, and in correspondence, so have I. When I was 5, I decided to get a fringe. Meanwhile, my house expanded to a second floor. At the age of 9 I got braces, and my parents turned their old room into a gymnasium. By the time, I was 13 I got a second piercing, parallelly, a neighbor built her house on what used to be our front lawn. Throughout these 16 years, my house has morphed endlessly, and taken all sorts of shapes and appearances, but so have I. The process of growth is not a pretty one, but it is remarkable looking back and seeing how much has changed.
In essence, my house is part of my identity, it is part of who I am; this is why the conversation I had with my parents the other day was of such high impact. As we were discussing college plans in one of our typical Sunday family gatherings, I said something that evoked a response from my parents that left me speechless. I was talking about visiting Lima on holidays and vacations when I mentioned finally being able to come home to my room. For a while, my parents nodded until my dad snapped out and reacted; "Oh, but remember when you move out, the house goes with you." At first, I failed to understand what he was saying, or maybe I just refused to understand it. It seemed crazy that my dad would want to get rid of the house that watched me take my first steps, but as the awkward silence dominated the dinner table, the words began to sink into my mind.
"What?" I responded, and they proceeded to tell me a very thought-out plan of buying an apartment for just the two of them. I must say it did make a lot of sense, after all what would they do with so much free space? Still, this was all too much to process at once, so I told my parents I wanted to be excused. I knew I wasn't overreacting, this house has seen me at my best and worst moments, so when my parents told me they would sell it, I felt like they were taking a piece of me away. But the more I thought of it, the more I saw that I was being immature.
It didn't happen immediately; it took me a while to see it, but I began to accept the fact that sooner or later, this house would not be mine. And when I did so, I was able to see things through another lens and notice that my house was only physical. I saw that any emotion I was inflicting on it was simply making me dependable, dependable on an object, dependable on a 'thing.'
I was able to wrap this up in my head after Mr. Cotter asked the class to find the five things we would save from our house if it were on fire. Then and there I realized I was being placed in a puzzling situation; I wanted to save it all. The locket my mother gave me, the stuffed bunny gifted by my dad, but most importantly, my house, the physical structure.
I began to picture it on fire, everything, every object to which I have ever been attached. At first it felt horrible, losing every article of interest I have ever cared about, but after a while it felt relieving. By breaking any bond you have with these objects, you are freeing yourself, and every object less, becoming freer. But yes, if my house would burn down I would be eternally devastated, but there is one thing that would always remain intact. When I was taking the pictures for our 'The things they carried' assignment, I failed to notice something. There is one thing that I will always carry with me, but, in this case, it is not a 'thing', and that is the memories that will live past any physical structure that makes up my home.
I will always remember that tree, the one I used to climb until reaching the tallest branches. I will always remember my dad's office, filled with stacks of books it would take years for one to read. I will always remember my room, packed with countless reminiscences, both happy and sad. And even though the day will come when this house no longer belongs to me, scribbled on the walls and ceilings are those memories that I will keep forever, I will always carry my home in my heart. And while for now it may pain me to say, I do hope that the next family that moves in will appreciate this house and grow up with it just like I did.
“The earth has music for those who listen.”