These walls remember

The foot-high “snow person” at the end of the gravel driveway refused to melt for more than a week of direct sunlight, it was packed so tight. Our three daughters, 11, 9 and 7, had set to work creating it as soon as we had parked the car at our new home.

January 1977, and Chapel Hill was dusted with a thin blanket of snow, to the delighted fascination of our daughters, all of whom had spent their short lives in Florida. We had moved from there to North Carolina, into a new one-story ranch next to what was then a quiet two-lane highway, about three miles from the university campus where my new job awaited.

The professional movers didn’t arrive for a week, so we slept in borrowed sleeping bags on hardwood floors. Meals were picnics on the dining room floor.

In time, furniture arrived, carpet was added, children were enrolled in local schools, we found a church, I reported to my new job at the university, and my dear bride Betsy accepted an excellent position in the division of cardiothoracic surgery in the university’s School of Medicine.

In the ensuing 43 years, this modest brick building became our home, its walls, windows, deck, and yard witness to countless visitors, giggles, lots of music, noise, laughter and tears, graduations, weddings, life-changing experiences. Home.

Now I walk down the hall, listening. The walls are silent.

But my heart can hear the years, so many memories: our Thanksgiving table surrounded with students who played touch football in the front yard, visiting family members, an entire college choir enjoying a meal before launching a concert tour, extended visits by foreign exchange students, choir rehearsals in the living room, visit by Russian educators, a parade of Betsy’s piano students whose efforts serenaded our dinner preparations.

Noisy wedding preparations filled this home with joyful activity three times.

The girls, grown, moved away in time, now mothers with families of their own. They still bless this home with visits to me, but their Mom is no longer here, and the pandemic keeps them away. Two years ago, Betsy moved into an assisted living facility.

Now this precious place is home to only two: our cat Miss Molly and me. It is quiet now, but these walls remember, and so do I.