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

“Marietta, the book is a lovely ode to family and friends, to the best in us all. I so enjoyed your clear and loving word pictures. The army of people you harnessed to help with the emptying is remarkable, and how wonderful that you gave them all a chance to take the things they wanted. As for Billy, what can I say?”
—-Barbara Shelton
Asheville, NC

“Hi, Marietta! I enjoyed your talk at the Jack Byrne Center, where I volunteer as a family care navigator, and just finished LEAVING 1203. Your voice is lyrical and your book poetic! Great job finding the stories and pieces of a home that added up to a bestseller. Thank you for the storytelling and the inspiration!”
—-Jill Trudeau Marquard
Lebanon, New Hampshire

“It's a great book, Marietta! I LOVE it! Whew, it not only took me on your journey, but conjured up parts of mine and, sometimes, simultaneously. It was terrific! Thanks, Marietta. Your stories really moved and inspired me. You are truly a very gifted writer, and individual.”
—-Susan Santiago
Point Reyes, California

“I just finished your book, LEAVING 1203. I laughed, I cried, I loved it. My father died in 2016, my mother in 2012. So, my brothers and I cleaned out their home (they built it new in 1964), without any of the dignity and humor you managed.  We managed not to fight, and we did give away a lot of stuff, but you managed it so much better than we did.... Thanks for a great book.”
—-Barbara Heyl
Faber, Virginia

"I have finally finished LEAVING 1203. I only read a couple of chapters at a time, for a couple of reasons. A part of me resonated so strongly with your story that I needed time to process my reactions - and, I wanted this experience to last as long as possible. In reading your book, I found what environmentalist John Muir says about a walk in nature: 'I received more than I sought.' Thank you for writing this family story. Our families and our experiences were different - and yet the same."
—-Diane Valade
Ruckersville, Virginia

“What a pleasure it was having you at the Jack Byrne Center last Friday, July 26th. I found the experience valuable on both a personal and professional level. They have a saying here on the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Palliative Care team that we have the skills necessary to ‘hold space’ for patient and families in a way that supports healing, validation and connection. You have that same gift. I learned a lot about gratitude and the power that all of us have to change our perspective on life’s circumstances (from responsibility to opportunity). You spoke about the power of memories, their ability to take us back in time (escape) and the importance of ‘locking them down’ and cherishing them. Thank you for your visit, your thoughtfulness in putting the program together and for sharing your gift.”
—-Beth O’Donnell, Program Manager for Palliative Care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock
Lebanon, New Hampshire

“Marietta McCarty has written a book that warms the heart. Each page allows the reader into her world as she ventured into the challenging task of emptying her childhood home. Yet, the reader is quickly transformed into his or her own memories. LEAVING 1203 encourages one to think, laugh, cry, and ponder. Read each page slowly, as there is much wisdom to be found with each specific word. Marietta has a beautiful grasp of the English language and each word just sings. I loved this book. It is filled with simple pleasures. Drink them up!”
—-John Case
Charlottesville, Virginia

“Dear Marietta, Thought you’d like to know that my oldest sister Sandy is going to read from 1203 in her Mothers Day sermon this Sunday! I told her to take up a collection to pay to fly you to Iowa.”
—-Gail Robinson
Takoma Park, Maryland

“The gift of the book LEAVING 1203 has left a mark on my heart. Weeks after reading it and actually sharing it with mom, she fell and had to leave ‘2409.’ I'm purchasing books for my siblings. By the way, you had me at ‘gravy bread.’” 
—-Lea Baranik
Altoona, Pennsylvania

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

“You are really having a great time, aren’t you?!  So proud of you and all you have done. Waiting for you to have time for my porch and a beer so I can tell you how much and how deeply your Leaving 1203 affected me.”
—-Jeanne Norton
Gordonsville, Virginia

“I dawdled with your book, LEAVING 1203. Reading chapter after chapter was gentle coaxing . . . remembering my childhood, “letting go, and holding on to what matters most.” Reading your book brought back memories of my mother and father and their old house in Virginia. Their golden years were shared with gobs of generosity, love and laughter. An unusual feature was a heavy cast iron swing in their backyard, so heavy and big it couldn’t go in the moving van. We had to let it go when Dad sold the house. The new owners love it just as much as we did, sure. They have two young children. By this time, they can say that their children grew up with the special swing in their backyard. Though it isn’t a part of our family any more, it is right where it belongs. I vow to plunk a swing in my backyard this summer with the hope it remains there for the next family, and the one after – meanwhile, hold onto the love and laughter, my memories, and what matters most. Marietta, thank you for your invitation to enter 1203 and stay awhile. It is this kind of friendship that helps us all to know, too, the best is yet to come.”
—-Janine Sellers
New Bern, North Carolina

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

"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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