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  • (L-R: Elisa, Jacob, Isabel, Noah, me, Jonnie)

    This photo was taken at 182 Concord Drive. It might be Thanksgiving. I am probably seven years old, in the IntraLinks shirt and laughing. I don't know at what. By the look on my cousin Noah's face, he probably said "penis" and I laughed for a solid five minutes. He's studying to be a classical oboist now. The cousin next closest in age, Isabel, studies gender and sexuality. Out of my cousins, she's the one I see the most often now because we both sing Sacred Harp, but I don't think I'll get to see her very much this summer. It's the first summer I haven't come home, just like this past Thanksgiving was the first one I wasn't at home because I was across an ocean. I can't make it back for my brother Jacob's high school graduation either; he's holding the toy and sitting next to Isabel. He and wall-climbing Elisa are going to college in the fall. Jonnie, the guitar player, has one more year. I think.

    After this photo was taken, we probably chased each other around the house, running naked laps through the living room and through the kitchen. We might have played hide and seek, hiding under the stairs or in Grandma and Grandpa's bed or in the tiny storage space in the back of the coat closet. Maybe we tried to pet Shuki and Olivia, the elderly, skittish cats. They probably hissed at us. My aunt Julie brought dessert, as she did to most family gatherings, and we stuffed our faces full. When we said goodbye, we knew we'd see each other again soon; none of us lived more than 45 minutes from each other, and 182 Concord Drive was the center. The house raised my mother and her two sisters, and even though each traveled in turn, all three daughters of the house planted themselves and their families close.

    The last time I set foot in 182 Concord Drive was this past March. The sofa was one of the only pieces of furniture remaining. The rest had either been sold or moved to my grandparents' new apartment in a town about ten minutes away from their old house. Grandpa died, of lung cancer, a few days later. Simon and Lucy, the latest generation of cats, are fat and soft, and they keep Grandma company. My aunts and my mother are all within driving distance if she needs them.

    I don't know who has the house now. Chances are they'll knock it down and turn it into a bigger house, like has happened to many of the ranch houses on the street. Where us six cousins will be after college I do not know, but the general trend and our individual ambitions seem to be towards further away, not closer. We all have our college friends or will have them, and later our "adult" friends.

    When it comes to goodbyes, especially permanent goodbyes, I've never been good at them. The Internet makes personal goodbyes due to geographic distance a very different animal than it once was, but saying goodbye to places, to experiences, and to possibilities doesn't seem like it will get any easier. I don't know if I want it to. Not being able to say goodbye before goodbye happens, however, is hardest of all.
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