End of an Era

Growing up as a service brat, my parents moved on average every 3 years.  Since then I’ve stayed put longer.  I’ve been in this house on my beloved mountain for 14 years.  Our previous home lasted 18.  I wanted my son to have an opportunity I never had, to go from kindergarten through high school with the same group of friends.

My husband, Tim, and his family on the other hand, never moved.  His father was born (few went to hospital to give birth in 1914) in the house Tim grew up in.  My mother-in-law lived her entire life a few blocks away until her marriage.  She and her new husband had a rental house, in the same neighborhood, for a few months, but soon moved back into the family homestead to take care of his ailing mother.  They never moved again.

When you move every few years you tend to toss accumulations of stuff—old toys, letters, clothes, worn out tools, keeping only very precious mementos and photographs.

There are 4 generations of stuff crammed into my mother-in-law’s house.  The process of clearing it out for the new owners—OMG no one but the family who built that house has lived there before—is heart-wrenching as old memories, good and bad, surface with each new treasure or piece of trash.

A true gem that brought tears to everyone’s eyes: a typed letter of congratulation to my in laws, signed by the then mayor of Portland, upon the birth of their son.

Times have truly changed.  I cannot imagine Mayor Sam Adams having the time to send out letters—even computer generated form letters with a stamped signature—for every birth in a city of over a million people, and half a dozen hospitals.

So, as we pass the house on to a new family who will love and cherish it, we are reminded that it is time to let go of the past and embrace the future in the form of my grandchildren who’s pictures decorated great grandma’s refrigerator and now mine.

Life changes.  Life continues.



About Phyllis Irene Radford

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species—a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon—she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck. A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between. Mostly Irene writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Later this year she ventures into Steampunk as someone else. If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: www.ireneradford.net Promises of no spam, merely occasional updates and news of personal appearances.


End of an Era — 8 Comments

  1. My family has been fiddle-foots for generations. Great-great grandpa Samuel Grubb came across the continent by ox and wagon from Iowa or Missouri or some such place; he was born further east than that and he moved around what is now Ashland and Jacksonville without really settling (the original Grubb homestead is now the grounds where some of the Southern Oregon State dorms are located). Same pattern has held throughout the generations. My Reynolds family ancestors were epic wanderers; first all over Canada (United Empire Loyalists to begin with) and then into and all over Colorado before coming to Oregon with grandfather and father during the Depression.

    Oldest brother was career Army, lived all over the world, in retirement he’s had three houses. Middle brother lives in his RV. DH and I are probably the most settled of the bunch.

  2. Even when you’re not there for generations, cleaning out a parent’s house can be filled with astonishing discoveries. When we sold my father’s house–which had his design studio, decades of records and sketches and accumulated art supplies and found objects–the stuff we found was stunning. My grandfather’s death certificate; the records of my father’s previous two marriages; a huge schoolhouse map of the US so old that it didn’t include the Gadsden Purchase (the 1853 treaty by which the US acquired parts of New Mexico and Arizona, for the purpose of railway expansion). A full (antiquated) darkroom. An astonishing collection of rusty iron things–springs, parts of tools, gears and oddments Dad would use in constructing a piece of art.

    Dad is blind now, and so we brought him down from the place he lives, sat him in a chair, and attempted to describe a lot of the stuff we found–had we given him as long as he wanted to consider, we would likely never have gotten rid of any of it (“Oh hell, that? Hmm. Why’d I keep that? No, don’t throw it out, I might want to…”). As it was, and being diligent about finding new homes for an awful lot of it, I still filled four dumpsters. The best part, though, was the family archeology. I still have boxes in our basement of stuff I want to go through at my leisure. Note to self: do that before my kids have to do it!

  3. Here in Southern California there is seldom a sense of history, but that did not hold true for my spouse’s family, who were third generation–that’s a lot for here. When his grandmother died, there were artifacts in the house going back to her teen years around World War One. There was also a set of letters from a great-uncle who’d gone out to work the silver mines in the mid-1800s, and his picture of California was extraordinarily vivid, right down to the earthquake one day.

  4. My father has pretty much stripped down his life, so there aren’t too many sentimental things left — more the practical things he needs for daily living. But I ended up with some of my mother’s jewelry and find I cannot get rid of her collection of mysteries.

    To go back farther than that, I have to tap the human resource: my father. When I drive him across Texas, I get him telling stories that go back — his own stories, family history, facts about this or that community.

    My father once sang “Dixie” at a confederate veteran’s reunion (he was six then; he’s 91 now). Every once in awhile I think: my father knew someone who fought in the Civil War. It makes me realize things we consider ancient history didn’t happen all that long ago.

  5. I am working on my mother’s oral memoir, which we are going to probably print on cafepress or something. I urge you to get your mom’s stories down in some permanent form. The wetware is so prone to breakdown.

  6. Well, my dad is from Syria and studied in Germany so he didn’t bring much (when he visits Syria, he does bring some Damascus stuff with him, wood things with inlaid patterns and some brass or copper vessels), and my mother was around 13 when she had to flee from East-Prussia to the west (they lived in the forest near Insterburg, south of Köngisberg/Kaliningrad) – the family saved some pictures and a dead marten shawl that my grandfather had shot for my grandmother – and they saved themselves.

    By now my parents have owned three houses, two of them my father had built himself (he’s an architect and building engineer), and they have LOADS of stuff.

    When I moved I mostly had books (and the Billy shelves for them ^^) up to this flat which I’ve bought. I now own real furniture.

  7. Estara: talk about fascinating family artifacts–your folks must have collected some nifty stuff!

  8. I am a third-generation migrant — by that I mean my grandparents moved from China to Malaysia, my parents from Malaysia to Singapore and I most probably won’t be moving back to Singapore (I live in the UK at the moment) permanently any time soon, if ever.

    I couldn’t imagine having such a trove to sift through (my parents just sold what I consider to be my childhood home, and they are renting for the next year or so), and envy you that you do.