A late September camping trip with the Florence gang was just what my mom ordered after closing on her childhood home (Papa’s house) on September 24th, 2020.
We met up at Russell Memorial Campground on Lake Arbutus, where we claimed the perfect cluster of campsites along Arnolds’s Creek! There, we gathered around the campfire, swapped family stories, performed cannon balls off the back of the boat, grilled all of the bacon, and even set up an outdoor movie theatre because we camp like champs… except for that part where we lost Great Aunt Geri for 45 minutes, and that other snafu where Genesee’s front teeth landed on the metal step of the playground slide, resulting in a bloody murder of the mouth… other than those minor setbacks, total champs!
If it’s true that “home is wherever you leave everything you love and never question that it will be there when you return,” then Papa’s place does not feel like the home it once was; he’s not there anymore.
So, the place went up for sale, and on September 24, 2020, the keys were officially turned over to a new owner: Jeff Gilson.
When my mom moved into that house in 1986, she was a second-grader who referred to the place as “The Badlands” because of the racism displayed by much of the neighborhood and surrounding community. Hence, not every memory there was a happy one, but my family made that house a home despite the discrimination, and over time, those walls held many stories of pride, resilience, triumph, and joy.
Luckily, those stories did not get sold with the house, but it was still hard to say goodbye… Mom says it feels like the end of an era. And maybe that’s true in some ways, but I also believe these stories are still being written, and I trust that my grandparents live on as we love on.
It felt completely disrupted, as we spent days and weeks and months picking up the pieces of shattered hearts. But when I paused to reflect, I discovered that, somehow, the warmth and joy of summer still happened: