Today, my 92-year-old mother moved out of the home where my sister, brother, and I grew up; the home where she and my father lived together for nearly 55 years. To put the momentousness of this event in context, let me quote my brother from a recent email: “In some way, the house was like the sixth member of our family.”
While I’ll miss the historic charm of my ancestral home (built-in beehive bread oven; wood-burning fireplaces; a front-door key the size and heft of a baby’s forearm), it’s more the surrounding roads and running routes that I find my mind drifting toward the past few weeks. Those rustic-suburban roads, deeply wooded with few houses, were the starting point of my running journey. They’re where I got my first taste at the exhilarating sensation of digging deep and finding out I am stronger than I thought.
In high school, I began to leave behind my bookish childhood and take some steps into the physical realm. After growing bored of doing the Jane Fonda workout album (yes, an actual album that required flipping over midway!) and “get a better butt” exercises from Mademoiselle magazine in the basement, I ventured outside to run. The most obvious route was a 3.7-mile loop around the nearby reservoir. Stepping beyond our home’s split-rail fence, I’d debate whether to head clockwise or counterclockwise—either way resulted in a steep climb in the final mile and many long rollers in the middle. (So many hills in Connecticut!)
The house is on a road called Trinity Pass, so-named because it cuts through three towns (+ two states), perched at the top of a hill cut out by glaciers eons ago. Massive boulders jut out of the leafy landscape, crossed by countless stone walls built centuries ago by colonists. But the history that’s most vivid to me is charging up that final hill as a college student, telling myself if I stayed “strong” “strong” “strong” (a longtime power-word for me!) all the way to the top, I’d make the best boat on the rowing team when I returned to campus after summer vacation. (Spoiler: I did.)
I fell into a lovely routine with my Dad in the mid-1990s: I’d run seven miles to the pool where he swam daily, then we’d ply laps side-by-side. He’d give me a head start before starting his drive to the rec center so we’d arrive at the pool around the same time, then I’d drive us home post-swim. The pool was near my elementary school; as I ran, my mind would often drift back to childhood memories, including coming in last in just about every field day event except for the wheelbarrow race.
Then, of course, there’s the outrageous-to-some move I pulled on a marathon training run in Connecticut that remains a vivid memory even to some of you: the time, when on an exceptionally hot and humid 13-miler, as I traipsed a route that was post-apocalyptic deserted (no sign of life anywhere!), I chugged water from a half-empty bottle I found by the side of the road. While I didn’t finish that run feeling strong, I proved I can be resourceful, too. (And a bit nasty—same for peeing-through-my-capris on some of those stone walls lining the bucolic backroads.)
Like my years growing up in an 1836 Greek Revival house in Connecticut, these runs made me the mother runner I am today. I’ll miss both the house—and my old stomping grounds.
Thank you for sharing this run down memory lane. What a beautiful home, with beautiful memories.
I feel for you, Sara. I’m pretty sure there was way more traumatic than you’re really letting on, because we did the same with my parents a couple of years ago — and they had been in their house almost as long — it’s been hard. It continues to be hard.
I’m an adult onset athlete, I like to say — I just started running about 9 years ago. My parents lived behind Vassar College & I had many runs through there — I do miss it. Where they live now is just not really conducive to running — 2 lane country roads with no shoulders & yes, very hilly!
Big, big hugs.
That isn’t a house; it’s a home. And an acknowledgement of a change of life. Big BIG hugs to you and your family, Sarah, as you navigate through this big change. On a side note, I think I had that same Jane Fonda workout on cassette! I used to do it daily in my house when I was in the Peace Corps (on a battery operated radio/cassette player). Those moves and music are permanently etched in my brain!
awww, this gave me all the feels. So special to have all of those memories and hoping it is a smooth transition to a slightly different life. hugs.
I always picture this house when you speak of your family on the podcast. What a lovely place to grow up! Thinking of you and your mom and wishing her a smooth transition.
My mom is moving from our most-of-my-life home TODAY. Although that house is not super meaningful to me, the place and neighborhood location is. Along the river, went for my very first runs in high school on the levee at 5 am to avoid the heat and humidity. Big changes and I think my mom (and yours) is very brave to leave somewhere they know so well to go somewhere new. Hope the transition goes well.
I always love the way you tell your stories–there’s always emotional truth there, enough to hook us but not so much that we get lost in it, losing sight of your deeper point of all the things that make us the runners we are.
Beautiful. Thinking of you during this transition.
Upon hearing your descriptions of the ‘death trap’ home that your parents lived in, I had always imagined it to be red brick, Tudor styled and ivy coloured. So nice to see what it actually looks like!
Jane Fonda work outs on a record! I did the same!! TOO FUNNY!! The memories you shared are so special!! Keep them close to your heart as this transition continues!
Connecticut is a wonderful place. The hills and varying conditions provide amazing training grounds. Like you, that state holds such a dear place in my heart. I still live in the Nutmeg State, and will for at least the next 10 years. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories. Best to your mom in her next chapter.
What a wonderful story. It is such a hard thing to do. We moved my parents out of my childhood home two years ago. They lived there for 60 years, and raised all ten of us there. Even after we moved out, my sister and I would always meet at mom and dads and run our Saturday long runs while training for our marathons. I often think I would like to go back and run from that “home base” again…but the new owners may be suspicious of me warming up on their front lawn at 5:00 AM.
Always keeping it real, Sarah. I love your stories!