816 North Opinion

Mom’s closet holds shrineto straightforward, well-built life

It’s a common movie scene: An adult returns to his childhood home, walks into his room-turned-time capsule and slowly scans the memorabilia. Pictures, trophies, posters and furnishings all frozen in time on the last day when this was his room in his house, not a room in his parents’ house.

It is a shrine to their childhood.

The former kids in the movies have their own homes suited to their adult life, but by re-examining their bygone cocoon through the eyes of their emerged selves they make new personal discoveries.

Fade to black.

Yes, that’s a script, but I still challenge anyone to not get nostalgic when they visit their parents’ house.

My own parents live in my home state of Connecticut. Unlike the movie parents who keep their darling child’s room a pristine museum, my parents quickly redecorated in the most permanent of ways.

Within months of my college graduation, they sold the house.

Gone was the charming blue check wallpaper of my room.

Gone was the closet with the only full-length mirror in the house and a pile of things I wasn’t ready to part with, but didn’t need anymore.

Gone was my childhood furniture, bedding, area rug, bulletin board and far too many photos tacked to the wall.

Gone were my Calvin Klein jeans, Grease and Kermit the Frog posters.

My childhood memorabilia instantly become my own responsibility.

My brothers and I were shrineless.

After selling that house, my parents (who will always be cooler than I) lived in and rehabbed old houses. Then they moved off land onto a boat and sailed the world. Three years ago they made their address a very nice townhome in an over-55 community.

The townhome’s décor is suited to their current life: framed photos of their post-retirement adventures (and many of their grandchildren); a lot of the furniture acquired after “the kids” moved on.

The only remnant of my childhood room is my bed — a Shaker trundle-style that my father built when I was 5 — which is stored, unassembled, in the basement. It honestly does not bother me, but there is no place for me to get my personal nostalgia on; there is no Susan Shrine.

“Mom, can I help you somehow?” I asked on a recent visit.

“You can vacuum. It’s in the hall closet,” she told me.

I opened the hall closet and memories fell out.

Resting on the floor next to a Costco-sized package of toilet paper was the blue vacuum cleaner of my childhood. It bore the scars from careening off baseboards while we raced to finish our chores right before Mom and Dad came home. Other than a broken rubber handle, it looked exactly like it had on the day I moved out of my parent’s house.

I was hit with a memory movie all my own: The summer day when a very brave man ventured up our long, rural driveway to demonstrate the Electrolux to my mother. My Dad’s surprise when he came home, because Mom wasn’t the type to buy on impulse.

I saw myself as a teen vacuuming lines into the coral carpet in our formal living room. I remembered the frustrating, awkward juggle up the stairs of long hose and wheeled canister; my frequent angry vow to use only uprights when I grew up.

Adult-me then realized that all my flashy uprights have died, but this straightforward and well-built classic canister powers on.

It also occurred to me that things don’t make memories, people do.

I have a shrine in my parents’ house, and it’s a vacuum cleaner.

Fade to black.

Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go to thehistorychicks.com.

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