How do you say goodbye to your children’s childhood home?
We sold our house last week. Because the neighborhood had changed, our lives had changed, and our house had fulfilled its purpose. Because we were no longer living in it and were concerned that it might lose its value. Because the time had come.
It was a proud and solid home, tucked away between the main thoroughfare and the sports fields, hidden from street view. It stood shoulder to shoulder with the other townhouses, like soldiers at attention, Jerusalem stone on the outside, speckled floors and textured walls within. A massive wooden staircase spiraling through the living room and a yawning brick fireplace elicited the ultimate compliment: “It doesn’t look like Israel.” A plastic skylight broadcast the pitter-patter of the rain.
It took us in when we sought refuge, let our kids live in proximity to their friends, and gave us lots of room to grow. And grow we did. A lone soldier took up residence in our guest room. Fate brought our two sons an 11-year old foster brother. Two dogs, at different times, and our family was complete.
It was the home in which Gil built and launched his first mini-weapon of mass destruction, burning off his nose hairs in the process. It was the home in which Uriel’s teenage rock band met for practice. It was the home to which Moshe returned after his kidney surgery, eight months after the tragic accident that brought him to our family. It was the home where our three boys reached the age of mitzvot, their Granny celebrated her 80th birthday, and Ofra and Matan told us they were engaged.
It was the home where our soldier chased a robber out of the window one Friday night and where our spaniel fell through the stairs while having a bad dream. It was the home where a gecko caused two of us to jump screaming onto the dining room table where the game of “strip Ping-Pong” had been invented by two bored boys. It was a home blessed with bicycles, wave-boards, and domino rallies, and a spirit of invention, creativity, and fun.
Over the years, it watched the seasons change and the holidays come and go. On Rosh Hashana, the calls of the shofar rang out from next door and a hose made a river that trickled town the cobblestone lane for the neighbors’ Tashlich prayer. Soon after, the balconies of the beehive buildings on the opposite mountain sprouted wooden Sukkah booths, dramatically changing our view. On Hoshana Raba, the stillness of the night was pierced by Oriental cadences and ancient texts that wafted through our windows, soon to be replaced by the calls of the muezzin.
In the winter, the golden stone buildings on the mountain beyond were illuminated against dramatic dark skies, as storm clouds rushed by and rainbows arched across the sky. Hanukkah candles glowed on the windowsills as we sang Maoz Tzur and baked dreidel cookies with cousins. When the snow came, the house hunkered down with us, a fire roaring in the fireplace as our youngest trudged to the sports fields, stomping out S N O W in huge letters we could read from inside.
When spring arrived, the scent of jasmine filled the air and our apple tree buzzed and blossomed, as poppies and wild flowers sprung up in the field that served as our yard. On the eve of Yom Haatzmaut, the community prayed and partied on the sports fields, and fireworks lit up the sky from the neighboring hills. On Lag Ba’Omer, we sat around our modest bonfire, eating s’mores and watching our delicate flames as massive fires from the surrounding Haredi pyres streaked toward the sky.
In the summer, the house basked in the sweltering Jerusalem sun, sheltering us from the heat. It took deep swallows of the cool, Jerusalem air as evening came. Late at night, it rocked to disco music as the 12th graders from the neighboring high school celebrated their graduation, minutes before donning their army greens. Soon after, it watched the sports fields fill with soccer players, yeshiva students clad in black and white. And when the days got shorter, the cycle started again.
We’re not going to buy a replacement home, at least not now. I find that unsettling. Perhaps it’s because my parents in the US have lived in the same house for the last 53 years and when any of us sibs, all grown with kids, go to visit, we are still going “home.” Perhaps it is the insecurity of the wandering Jew, who feels the need to be grounded and have roots. Or maybe it’s simply due to an awareness of the vagaries of a rental market with few long-term options.
But as I contemplate my middle class problems and quell the sadness that wells up as I pack away my memories, I have renewed compassion for the people I saw as evacuated when they saw themselves as expelled. And my heart goes out to all those in our region, Arabs and Jews alike, whose homes disappear when destruction rains down from the sky. For my departure was of my choosing and my house still stands. While it may change its shape, form, and décor, my children’s childhood home will soon be filled with the laughter of other children. And my children will always be able to dream of making a pilgrimage to see it in its new incarnation.
Farewell, faithful home. May you embrace your new owners with the same grace you showed us. And whatever you become, we look forward to seeing you, somewhat transformed, someday in the future.