Monday, May 31, 2010

Saying Good-Bye to Sparrows Lane

Saying good bye to your childhood home is difficult. Even Cinderella , I bet, having married Prince Charming and moved to The Palace, probably sometimes missed her cramped, picturesque -- if we are to believe Disney -- attic.

26 Sparrows Lane is not my childhood home, it's Michael's. I've known it for only 28 years, which is not to be sneezed at, and if I have been sneezing it's only because of the accumulated dust under pieces of furniture that have just been moved for the first time in dozens or scores of years.

Being a stiff-upper-lipped Brit, M. doesn't seem very emotional about the process of emptying out his old home and handing it over to strangers. But the stress nonetheless takes its toll. The stress that I am experiencing has re-activated my tinnitus: what sounds like silence to a normal person comes across as a constant loud buzzing in my head.

Like my own memories of my childhood home, M's, too, were mostly formed by our mid-twenties or so. After that, it's still the place you call home, but it's no longer where you live. It's where you go for Rosh HaShana and Seder night; where you store your old school/university notebooks, bike, ballet slippers, stamp collection -- anything your parents are still willing to shove in the attic, basement, tool-shed etc. You never actually say good-bye to this place until your parents move out, die, or both.

I said goodbye to my parents' place at 4 HaBarbur street, Holon, in late summer 2001, when Clara sold the house and moved to an assisted living residence, about a year after Nachum's death. They had lived there nearly 50 years. Which pales compared with the nearly 70 years that Fay lived in 26 Sparrows Lane.

If I counted the actual number of days and nights I spent here, in Sparrows Lane, it probably wouldn't amount to that much, even over 28 years. Around half a year, net, I should think. But each stay was special. Each was both a family visit and a getaway vacation. Few things in life have been as soothing as the lush green view out of the window of the back bedroom:

It was a home away from home; it was both home and diaspora, familiarity and otherness, obligations and freedom.

Taking the place apart bit by bit is draining. Making decisions about keeping, giving away or throwing out is wrenching. It's not even my "stuff", but I'm attached to it all the same. It's become part of me over the past 28 years.

I dread Tuesday, when the big van comes and a few strong (I hope!) men will remove every last stick of furniture from the house. Every cup and saucer. Every photo on the wall. Any remaining knickknacks. Artificial flowers. Pens and pencils scattered everywhere. 108 fridge magnets. Assorted bed linen, pillows, cushions, two or three sewing machines. Pots and pans that have never been used. Enough wine glasses and cutlery to host an average Bar-Mitzvah. And on goes the list. Despite our having already sorted out, taken away, given away or thrown out bags upon bags of things. Things that were part of the family's life, either actively -- being used -- or passively, simply being here.

Good-bye, 26 Sparrows Lane.
Thank you for the good times and the sad.
See you around. Maybe.


  1. I find myself so moved right now, Nina.
    You've taken me on a ride. You've taken me back to pieces of your life - both past and present - and managed to touch mine along the way too....
    The markings of a true writer, the touches of a unique spirit ...

  2. Nina, this is David Kelly, originally from Vancouver, now living in San Jose. As you might remember, I visited Fay and Len at their house on Sparrows Lane, in 1986. That was the year I was a volunteer at Kibbutz Afikim and when I met and visited with you. Sad when your family home is no longer yours, we went through that in 1988. Since we last spoke, in 1993 (?), when you visited Vancouver, I've run a technical writing business and moved to Silicon Valley where I work as a product manager for Cisco. We just bought a house in San Jose. I keep a blog of photo essays at Let's keep in touch.