You Can Go Home Again

At the end of her life, my standoffish mother finally let me in.

By Marcia Menter
The author and her mother, Bernice Menter, in front of their house.
Photograph: Photo by Philip Menter.

So my brothers and I sorted through what little was left and removed the few things we wanted (I took Dad’s black bag), gave away a few more things to friends and left the rest for the family we hired to empty and clean the house. The whole process took less than a week. Just as it began, a storm came through and dumped two feet of snow. Which seemed fitting. If I hadn’t had to scout all over for somebody to plow the place out, it wouldn’t have felt like home.

Walking out of the house for the last time was awful, surreal. Snow was falling, and the crew was packing everything, backing a pickup truck to the front door, washing down the walls. But I couldn’t let go of it yet. Two days before the close, I hired a young photographer to go in and shoot the place, inside and out. She had to trudge through more fresh snow to do it, but she was game, and fascinated by the architectural details. She shot the fireplace tiles, the wrought-iron banister, the swirled-plaster walls, the magnificent porcelain pedestal sink and six-foot bathtub, the naked windows letting snowy light into the huge, empty rooms. Looking at those photos, I didn’t recognize my own bedroom without the furniture in it. It seemed dark, the windows smaller. It wasn’t mine anymore. But, oh, it was. 

Marcia Menter’s self-help book, The Office Sutras, offers a Buddhist slant on working for a living. Her collection of poems, The Longing Machine, is available at

Originally published in the November 2009 issue of MORE.

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