Meg and I are selling a vacation home that we bought when our sons were young. We spent many happy summers there wth them and, after they went off to college and got too busy for summers with Mom and Dad, we went for weeks at a time throughout the year. I thought that without the boys I wouldn’t like going there, but we loved it: walks on the beach with our golden retriever, who loved that beach better than anything, candlelit dinners on the patio, long soaks in the spa under the stars. And for some reason we both wrote well there. Maybe it was the absence of the distractions of everyday life. So we kept the house and rented it to others when we weren’t there to make it affordable. Recently, the city banned vacation rentals and our beloved old dog died, and now, with no boys, no dog and no income, it’s time to move on.
As part of fixing up the house for renters, we took out a double bed my grandfather made a hundred years ago as a wedding gift to his bride and replaced it with a modern queen bed. We put my grandfather’s bed in the bedroom in Palo Alto that the boys shared growing up, thinking it would be nice as a guest room. But when they both come home for a visit, we had to set up another bed for one of them, one of the kids beds that was part of a bedroom playground set. And with my grandfather’s bed in there, it didn’t look like their bedroom anymore. It was disturbing, really, for a sentimental slob like me.
In their room at our beach house, we had two lovely camp beds made by a local furniture maker as prototypes for a summer camp. They are simple, handsome beds for boy or man, so we are bringing them home to our sons' old room in Palo Alto and putting my grandfather’s bed in the attic. If we have guests who are also lovers, they can push them together.
I am unreasonably happy about this. I imagine it as kind of an aesthetic blending of their bedrooms in the two houses, the best of each, the best of my memories of the times when I tucked them in, read to them, checked to see if they were sneaking time on the Game Boys after bedtime, picked up after them, washed their sheets, opened the windows to let in fresh air.
They won’t be there in those beds, or not that often anyway, but my memories of them will be. I don’t want to sound too maudlin; they’re not dead, just off in their lives, for which I couldn’t be happier. Just like my three older children. Just like Meg and me. But I was a father to young children for so long that it’s an old sweater I still like to pull out of the closet when I feel a chill. It’s worn and ratty, and I don’t wear it often, but it still makes me feel warm and happy.