Marietta McCarty

Leaving 1203

by Marietta McCarty


Photograph © by David Heald

Leaving 1203 final cover photo edited.png

"Thank you, Marietta McCarty, for showing us all the way home—the greatest gift an author could give a reader."
― Andrew D. Kaufman, author of Give War and Peace a Chance

After publishing a trio of acclaimed, accessible books rooted in philosophy, author and seasoned philosopher Marietta McCarty here applies her refined writing craft to a more personal subject, the emptying of her childhood home. In LEAVING 1203: Emptying a Home, Filling the Heart, McCarty presents an intimate narrative of universal appeal.

Bereaved following her mother’s death, McCarty faces the daunting task of emptying her beloved family home. How might she find a way through the inevitable emotional turmoil and the accumulation of more than five decades in the house at 1203?

Told with McCarty’s characteristic wisdom, marvel, exuberance, and good will, LEAVING 1203 is about navigating that way through.  The author draws on all available resources—friends and strangers, food and laughter, life lessons learned in the very house she now empties, and, not least, her newly-inherited West Highland terrier, Billy.  McCarty simultaneously learns and deftly teaches the fine arts of remembering, letting go, and holding on to what matters most.  She not only finds the way through, she shows the way.

An engaging raconteur, McCarty invites you in and welcomes you home. She exposes her generous heart and pulls you close. This wondrous volume is a gift to its readers—a hug, long held.

While home emptiers might find special comfort and resonance in LEAVING 1203, no home-emptying experience—actual or anticipated—is necessary for the reader’s enjoyment and appreciation of this book.


“This is a work about a kind of rootedness and connectedness that no distance of time or place can erase.
―   Christopher Phillips, PhD, author of Socrates Cafe and A Child at Heart


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Praise for Leaving 1203

Reflections from Reviewers

"LEAVING 1203 is a miraculous gift that keeps on giving long after you put it down. In poetic prose that hums with the simple grandeur of everyday life, this deeply intimate book will both enlighten and inspire you, making it impossible ever to look at a human being, or a house, or a starlit night, in the same way again. For me, reading it was like being wrapped in my favorite childhood blanket, frolicking through a world so right and true, so full of promise and rich in love, that I didn’t want to leave. But, like McCarty and her unforgettable canine companion, Billy, I had to, and when I did, a most exquisite thing happened: I found myself looking at my own life with a fresh set of eyes and a newly awakened consciousness. Suddenly, I discovered the lesson the book had been trying to teach me all along: 1203 is inside me, inside every one of us, right here, right now, no matter the circumstances of our lives or how far we may have strayed from our True North. Thank you, Marietta McCarty, for showing us all the way home—the greatest gift an author could give a reader."
― Andrew D. Kaufmann
Author of Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyian Wisdom for Troubled Times

“Whether you can or can’t truly go home again, Marietta McCarty had little choice but to return to the home of her youth, which it turns out remained part of the fabric of her being. Emptying her family home of its worldly belongings was an experience, as she shares here in touching and compelling prose, that filled her with a world of tender and moving life lessons — lessons of a universally philosophical and existential kind — that readers of this wise work are surely to absorb and carry with them. This is a work about a kind of rootedness and connectedness that no distance of time or place can erase.”
― Christopher Phillips, PhD
Author of Socrates Cafe and A Child at Heart

“This home is where your heart will be. In this eloquent book, Marietta takes the reader on a touching journey through the life of her childhood home, and you will empathize with her joy and heartbreak while reflecting on your own. One day, my siblings and I might be tasked with emptying the home my parents have lived in for 53 years. I am hopeful that we can model Marietta’s spirit and attitude and embrace this challenge as an opportunity to remember, appreciate, and connect.”
― Dr. Brent G. Richardson
LPCC-S and Chair of Department of Counseling, Xavier University, Author of Working with Challenging Youth

“This is the rare book that reveals the possibilities of a good home life. The marvelous storytelling takes us beyond the structure of a house to the interior of the hearts that lived there. This portrait of days spent in a beloved home is painted with humor, natural beauty, and joy. A river of love courses through relationships, meals, and plants and animals. Once I jumped in, nourished and inspired, I didn’t want to get out. LEAVING 1203 is a welcome, upbeat ride.”
― Jeannette P. Twomey

"Leaving 1203 details the writer's responsibility of emptying her childhood home. It truly evokes the beauty and spiritual importance of the memories of those we love and have loved us. The book has universal relevance as pretty much everyone will be presented with this task. McCarty's wisdom and sensitivity moves us past inherent sadness to a celebration of loved ones who have shaped our lives. Humorous and heartfelt, Leaving 1203 is a true tribute to family."
― Chris Farina
Documentary Filmmaker

Reader Comments

"You won my heart!”
—-John Marriot
Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina

“Please, will you give me the recipe for that potato salad? Please!”
—-Alison McCallum
Ponte Vedra, Florida

“I so appreciate the invaluable life lessons you learned that summer of cleaning out: the importance of being still, maintaining a sense of humor, relying on the help of friends, and knowing that what you give away, in the end, is what you keep. You’re such a strong writer. Another writer may have taken 300 pages to say what you say in half that number. Every sentence is tightly jam-packed in a good way. I wish I had had the opportunity to read this book before I cleaned out Dad’s house. I would have viewed that work much differently, not a job just to endure and to get it behind me, but as a Spirit-filled opportunity to savor and to appreciate as a gift.”
—- Barbara McCreary
Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina

"Oh good heavens! I followed you around 1203 for three days while reading the book for my first but not last time. Each day I wondered which room we'd be in, who I'd meet, what new surprises were waiting. I loved it all, every detail, and being a part of it all. Are you thinking about writing another book? Well, I wouldn't, you'll never top this one!”
—- Betsy Respess
Athens, Georgia

“I'm beginning a second reading.... It is a precious read and full of wisdom and life. Such a terrific memoir of a loving family in a home which sheltered and deepened love, and which 'opened its arms' to embrace so many. So glad I can share it with friends and family. Thank you.”
—- Jeanne Reilly
Sag Harbor, New York

“You’re now in the club of writers that force me to put down their books because I know it’s going to go too fast. I'm savoring each chapter, thinking about it, sometimes laughing, sometimes choked up.”
—- Matthew Mudd
McLean, Virginia

Hi Marietta, 
Congrats!  Question: What is better than publishing one book? 
Answer: Publishing 4 books and creating thousands of life rafts for others! You're doing it! Peace.
—- Carl Stacy
Charlottesville, Virginia

“While LEAVING 1203 is a small volume, it is filled with beauty, wisdom, and love. The words glide over the page and each word is a gem. I’m sure every reader will find something especially meaningful to them personally. Reading it has given me some great ideas about how to accomplish this separation with minimal pain and maximum gratitude as I empty my home of forty-seven years.”
—- Cathy S. Plotkin
Richmond, Virginia

“I took a break from MANSFIELD PARK to read LEAVING 1203 which I have now finished. I enjoyed it immensely. Use of items lacking monetary value to stimulate priceless memories provoked me, as I suspect it will other readers, to consider some of our own objects and the memories they represent—such as the hideous brass parrot, now hanging in our guest bathroom, which my mother had had suspended over her dining room table for years and which has been acknowledged positively by only one of our guests. She will get it someday. Upon returning to MANSFIELD PARK, I proceeded a few pages and read: ‘If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory.’“
― Robert Macdonald
Kodiak Island, Alaska

Raised, loved, charmed, cherished, nourished, humored, guided, filled, refilled, feted, dined, celebrated, wined, fused, released in lovely 1203.”
—- M.M. Ruth
Olympia, Washington

“Woohoo! LEAVING 1203 is fabulous! Taking it slow… about a chapter a night… for complete immersion in this beautiful world and its wisdom.”
—- Julie Gronlund
Afton, Virginia

“I LOVED your book.  It made me feel so good. There are so many ways to leave a home.  Making that departure from a home where the structure itself often supported and framed so many family memories can sometimes evoke both physical and emotional crises.  Your book tells me how to say “goodbye” to stuff and “hello” to loving reminiscences that I want to cherish always.  After reading LEAVING 1203 I have both courage and anticipated comfort as my husband and I start to downsize.  Pulling out boxes from the attic or the top shelf of a closet just might bring a smile along with a long forgotten happy family memory.  It’s the memory that lasts, not the stuff.”
—- Letty Ann Macdonald
Barboursville, Virginia

“Thanks for your heart-warming book. Dave and I are reading Leaving 1203 aloud - it’s perfect for a burst of thoughtful, reflection-producing reading over the breakfast table before we go on to our homework during the weekends. As I’m reading I can hear your voice saying each sentence - it sounds so much like you.”
—- Erin Hughey-Commers
Charlottesville Virginia

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