It was a typical weekday after school, with my son and his neighborhood friend sitting in the living room playing on their tablets and chatting. Without warning, my son’s friend made the surprising announcement that his parents were getting divorced, and that the family would soon be moving. It’s funny how life can change in a split second. This boy was the first neighborhood friend to knock on the door and ask my son to play many years ago. He has been a steady fixture around our home throughout the years, for after-school, weekend and summer break play dates. His easy-going nature has been a good balance for my high-energy, intense son. After hearing the news, I began to grieve over the loss my son’s friend would face as his family fell apart, and for my son at the potential loss of this valued friendship.
Soon after the announcement, the process of dismantling their family life began. The boy shared where his mom may potentially live and what his dad’s basement suite would be like… Which parent would keep the family pets, and which school the boy may attend after the move. How he would have a bedroom at each parent’s home, and which of his special belongings would go where. An old-soul look settled onto my son’s friend’s face as he attempted to roll with all of the changes.
Reality began to set in as we watched home repairs being made, the house being put up for sale, and the house promptly selling. My son took every opportunity to play with his friend before their contact would change from impromptu knocks on the door to play dates pre-arranged by phone. I battled my own regret at the missed opportunities to better connect with the family in the years they lived across from us. At the same time, I found it ironic that two good people like the boy’s parents could work so closely together to part amicably and minimize disruptions to their son’s life, yet not succeed at marriage. The whole situation felt deeply wrong, and I desperately wished that the upcoming loss could be averted for all involved.
In the final week before the move, the boy’s parents, though living separately at this point, worked diligently to get rid of the items they no longer wanted or would not fit in their new dwellings. Belongings once valued were left unceremoniously at the curb for the first passerby to take. Watching this process made me realize how the things we work so hard to acquire today can become instantly devalued tomorrow with a change of circumstances. In North American culture, we seek to create as luxurious a home as we can afford (or more than we can afford). We trade years of our life to pay off the things we purchase. It all seems so purposeful at the time. After all, we NEED that new living room furniture or big-screen TV to make our house feel like a home. That is until our marriage breaks up, and we can no longer fit all of these things into our new circumstances. Instead they become a burden to unload to those who can relieve us of them.
Friends, may we never forget that, in the end, it’s all.just.stuff. And the space we so diligently populate with gadgets and accessories are in the end just walls. It’s just a house. In our attempt to aggrandize our lives, we forget that what really matters are the people we love. No house or belongings can ever substitute for an intact, loving family. I am sure my son’s friend would attest to that. In the midst of our busy lives, may we remember that it is our relationships that matter most, and direct our energies in the right direction.