Friday, July 29, 2011

The Desolation of Abode and Boy

"It felt most strange to stand here in the silence and know
that he was about to leave the house for the last time. . . .
It gave him an odd, empty feeling to remember those times;
it was like remembering a younger brother whom he had lost."
~ J. K. Rowling ~
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 44

My sister Peg (scroll down for her comment on previous post) was wondering why I've been writing so much about moving lately: "Is this a coincidence or are you anticipating a move? Maybe it's just the empty nest feeling of the last of your boys moving out. Whatever it is, thanks so much for these posts and especially the pictures of your homes in Philly."

Well, I'm not going anywhere myself, but it is true that a few friends and neighbors have moved away recently, and also true that I often feel nostalgic for our historic homes in Philadelphia. And though I hadn't made this connection myself until Peg pointed it out, it's true that Sam is leaving the nest exactly one week from today to move into his campus dorm. Reading Peg's comment, I was reminded of the following passage from Meg Wolitzer's novel The Ten Year Nap, which perhaps contains the answer to Peg's query:

Children had a lot to do with it; they were the most fascinating part of it all, but mostly only to their own parents or, depending on the particular aspect, sometimes only to their mothers or only to their fathers. You stayed around your children as long as you could, inhaling the ambient gold shavings of their childhood, and at the last minute you tried to see them off into life and hoped that the little piece of time you'd given them was enough to prevent them from one day feeling lonely and afraid and hopeless. You wouldn't know the outcome for a long time (328).

Not to mention enough to prevent you from feeling those same things -- lonely, afraid, hopeless, old -- when they depart. The ambient gold shavings. In the corners, under the beds, atop the bookshelves, scattered throughout the old toy boxes . . . sweeping them up . . . feels almost like moving.

Thanks to Peg for making that connection! And in true sisterly fashion, she also read my mind, for even as she was submitting her comment, I was already putting together yet another blog post about moving day, this time featuring a poem that Sam wrote about his brother Ben and our transition, seven years ago, from Philadelphia to Indiana:


The barren house deserted and devoid,
The home depleted of its frills and friends.
The desolation of abode and boy,
Packed up and sent off to another place.

The home depleted of its frills and friends,
Who will replace the boy that loved her so?
The lonely house cries out; it wants to shout,
“Come Back, Come Back! I can’t be left like this!”

Who will replace the boy that loves her so?
The boy that laughed and cried within her walls,
Humming and thrumming through welcoming rooms,
Now stripped down to bare bones and skeleton.

The boy meanders far from all he loved.
The desolation of the house and boy
Like Tara and Scarlett, separate and sad,
Their barren hearts deserted and devoid.

by Sam McCartney, age 14

For the story behind Sam's poem, see
"The Desolation of Abode and Boy"
yesterday's new post on
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony


  1. So glad you're not moving again. I was afraid you had a sudden urge to move to southeastern Kansas ;o> Fortunately, or unfortunately, I've not had to experience the empty nest but I know how I felt when even Jerrod moved out and I knew he would never really move back in again. Sure, we see each other often but it's just not the same. There's an emptiness in the house that will never be filled quite the same. Thanks for Sam's insightful poem, too.

  2. Also from _The Ten - Year Nap_ by Meg Wolitzer: " . . . she spent the trip sitting in her bulkhead seat filling in a very difficult cryptic crossword puzzle in the British newspaper, one of those tough ones that everyone in the UK seems constitutionally able to solve, with clues such as 'Hounds who eat jam before Boxing Day? I'll say that's a bit of a muddle!' " (8)."

    I am constitutionally UNABLE to do this sort of thing, but my husband Gerry and all his British relatives have the gift!

    Apparently, so does Olivia de Havilland: “I would prefer to live forever in perfect health, but if I must at some time leave this life, I would like to do so ensconced on a chaise longue, perfumed, wearing a velvet robe and pearl earrings, with a flute of champagne beside me and having just discovered the answer to the last problem in a British cryptic crossword.”

    P.S. Comment posted on the occasion of Olivia's 100th birthday!