As many long-term couples do, my house and I took a break for a few years. My family’s brief move to Nigeria, where my father had a two-year work commitment, followed by my parents’ hope of moving to New York City soon after our return to America, necessitated renting out indefinitely the home I’d lived in since age 4. I wistfully thought of my “old house” while living in a Nigerian flat and, temporarily, a Cannondale apartment; despite my parents’ reminders of how often my sisters and I had once complained about the aged appearance and draftiness of the house, I missed its familiarity and charm. After deciding that finishing high school in Wilton would be the best option for us, my parents finally moved us back into our childhood home.
The house we moved into, however, is not the same house my younger self under-appreciated several years ago. My old house had a trampoline, a pink toilet, bright orange walls in the mudroom, a bunk bed with flowered covers in my bedroom, ugly upstairs carpeting, and no TV in the living room. Upon returning, we — my handy oldest sister to be exact, with some help from the rest of us — ripped out the carpeting and painted the floors and walls white, gave away the trampoline to a family with young children, and turned my old bedroom, once a pink paradise for a 10-year-old, into a modern, mostly grey and white teenager’s room. My two-years’ new house is the manifestation of four years of dramatic growth and change, both in my parents’ decorating style and my own habits. I watch Netflix on the couch where I used to read Harry Potter and Little House on the Prairie; I spend hours trying to tan by the pool rather than doing handstand contests in the water with my sisters, who are now in college; I study late at night at the dining room table, once the proud backdrop for colorful drawings and clay sculptures. My dog, who used to escape every time we opened the back door and terrorize our neighbors, now prefers to spend his time lounging peacefully on the living room rug.
The nostalgia I experience in this house is strange and sad at times, but our time apart can feel like a blessing. I’m lucky in that I never had to beg my parents to redo my childish room or buy a new TV; these changes happened naturally. I am a very different person now from the girl I was when I left this house for Nigeria, bags packed full of American candy and stuffed animals. But I have a window to the past when I look through old family pictures stored in the basement, the stacks of records my family used to play for “dance parties,” and the children’s books I once loved that are still on bookshelves in my sister’s room, or when I eat brownies made on snow days in the still-unrenovated kitchen.
When my oldest sister packed for her senior year of college in August, she remarked to me that our house no longer feels like “home” to her; rather, it’s simply a place for her to stay when she leaves her real home in Dublin, Ireland, to visit us. It both excites and scares me to think that I, too, will someday have this feeling about my Wilton house. Like a separated couple who remain friends, we will slowly drift apart, wishing each other the best as another family eventually moves in. Hopefully, the children who live in my house years from now will cherish their memories here as much as I do.
Chloe Mandel is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with five classmates.