Home again

Michael heard the kids before he saw them coming up the hill to our house.

“We can have a big game, Dad.”

The six kids, five boys and a girl, ranging in age from 10 to 15 bounded toward our house, and we quickly split ourselves up into groups of 4. As we played, Minnie and Mary blew bubbles with the little girl who lives across the street.

This is a what I’d dreamed of when we bought our house in Wilkes-Barre.

Of course, everyone glared when we first said we’d buy a house in the WB.

But the crime. But the school district. But, but, but …

Well, aside from a stolen bike and a man with heat stroke who barged into our house while thinking it was his, we haven’t had any crime. And, in quite the unexpected turn of events, since I’ve now substitute taught in Michael’s school and others, I can’t help but praise the little school up the road.

We’ve honestly both fallen deeply in love with a house that we originally rationalized buying because I worked in the city and Michael seemed to really like it.

I could have seen us growing old in it.

But life’s windy road is taking us in another direction. Molly has been working in Scranton for four years. I’ve switched careers and am willing to work in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties.

And a chain of events I could have never predicted started last fall. First, Mom died.

It still stings. Pretty soon after she died, Dad said he wanted the house to go to one of the kids. I’m the youngest so I never expected to be the one to take my parents’ house. Even as a kid, I daydreamed of being a big leaguer or famous author and visiting my parents in that house. I’d imagined one of my siblings would take it after my parents passed and that we’d stay there with them during the holidays or something.

Instead, my siblings and father are handing Molly and I the keys. We even get Dad as part of the deal.

He wants to show us the ins and outs of taking care of the family homestead.

Aside from Molly saying yes and taking my name and the kids loving me, this is the greatest honor I’ve ever been given.

I’ve promised myself we’re going to keep traditions alive. Christmas night dinner will stay right where it belongs. The third generation of Abdalla and Kreis kids will continue to take over the basement while the older siblings and cousins will hang in the kitchen, dining room and carport.

It’s probably my favorite family tradition. I remember my parents and my Aunt Betty and Aunt Marie making sure the salad bar, turkey, stuffing and pies filled everyone.

For awhile now, my sisters and cousins Erin and Jeannie have truly been leading the charge at dinner. They’ve been bringing food and helping Mom and Dad with decorations.

Everyone will be welcome for dinner again. I hope we even get visitors from other parts of all sides of our extended family.

We’re truly sad to be leaving Wilkes-Barre. It’s a great place, despite a bad rap. We’ve spent the past few weeks putting things in boxes and taking down decorations.

Last week, I drove up a few boxes to my father’s house with my father-in-law. As we pulled alongside the backyard, I looked for mom. I’m sure she’s ecstatic that little Mary, Minnie and Michael are moving in. But I still want to see her one last time, if just to hear her say so. Dad constantly says it’s “Your house.” This week, he told me he was mowing “your lawn.” Yet, I’ll always think of it as theirs, and it’s going to be awhile before I stop looking for her.

As my father-in-law unloaded the boxes, and I brought them downstairs, I saw all these memories. Playing monopoly in the basement with friends. Hide and seek in the basement. Even while we were in college. Late night basketball games.

Our kids are going to have similar memories now. Maybe it’s selfish that that makes Mom’s loss sting a bit less, in a weird way.

I’m sure it will be awkward at times to move into your in-laws home for Molly, but maybe in a few years, when the kids are playing outside with their friends and we’re doing chores, it truly will feel like ours.

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