There are many, many “firsts” along life’s path and we, as a species, find some degree of comfort in remembering them. Additionally, there is a large number of shared firsts: common events to which we can all relate, such as our first job, our first car, or that first time we climbed Mount Everest naked, alone, and blindfolded.
By some law of symmetry, we also tend to commemorate “lasts.” Like a last trip to a favorite vacation spot, the last day at a hated job, . . . or try this one on for size: just before Sarah turned eighteen and went off to school, my odd sense of humor wanted to find a commemorative Christmas tree ornament for that year, saying “Baby’s Last Christmas.” Surprisingly, they were all out of them at the Hallmark store.
Why do we do this? (Remember our firsts and lasts, that is: not the funny ornament thing.) I personally believe it’s because Firsts and Lasts act as milestones along the road. The term “milestone” is used today almost exclusively as a metaphor. We’ve nearly forgotten that the term refers to actual stones placed in the ground along roads to indicate distance or position. Per Wikipedia, “Milestones are constructed to provide reference points along the road. This can be used to reassure travellers that the proper path is being followed.”
To me, that’s what all our firsts and lasts are. Reference points. Assurance that we’re on the proper path and haven’t inadvertently driven off into a body of water.
With our move to a new house tomorrow (tomorrow!) our family has experienced a larger than normal number of firsts and lasts lately. And each one has caused me to reflect more and more about the time spent in this current house. As a person who’s basically all growed up now, I don’t experience the passage of time the same way I used to. Which means the fifteen actual Earth-years we’ve spent in this house feels more like four or five years to me. In fact, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure we’ve only been here three years. Maybe two and a half.
I’m fairly certain the move won’t hit anyone as hard as it will Rachel. As the youngest, she holds the family record for “largest percentage of total life spent here.” For Laura and I, it’s just another house in a string of many abodes over the decades. For Sarah, well, she’s lived in a different city for nearly five years now, so although this is the house she (mostly) grew up in, she won’t miss it the same way.
But being only about five years old when we moved here, Rachel’s previous memories are just fading snatches of random images. For all in tents and porpoises, this is the only house she’s ever known. All those firsts and lasts in preschool, grade school, middle school, high school, and now college: each and every one associated with these “four” walls.
Me, I definitely don’t have the same attachment to this structure. When we moved to Austin, we had to do our house-hunting from nine hundred miles away. There were actually two other houses we wanted over this one, but neither one worked out. So this was sort of the “we’re out of time just pick something” house. I never thought we’d stay as long as we did. And maybe because of the way things started out, I’ve never really felt super strong ties to this house, in spite of the thousands of firsts and lasts we’ve experienced here.
But that hasn’t stopped me from ticking off a number of “lasts” this week. My last weekend. Last Monday morning drive up congested Mopac. Last bowl of piping hot mashed potatoes. Last blog post. Last mashed potatoes. Last hot shower. Did I mention the mashed potatoes yet?
And then I think of the stuff I was positive I would have accomplished in the time we were here, and that’s when I have to stop thinking depressing thoughts and maybe make just one more bowl of mashed potatoes. The good news, though, is that big milestone this weekend. First box unpacked. First dinner in the new house. First of seventeen best-selling novels.
I could ramble on for a few thousand more words here, but alas, I am out of time. The movers will be here first thing tomorrow morning. I should probably start packing.