Three years ago yesterday we closed on our current home. We had spent the night before in a hotel room, cramming the kids and the dog into the small room. Our van outside and my dad’s car were filled with all kids of cleaning supplies and very important things no one could live without. We were fortunate enough to find ourselves homeless just for one night, but it was still disconcerting to be between homes like that. And while selling our first home had been a piece of cake, and a pleasant, amicable experience for everyone involved, purchasing this home had NOT been (there is nothing quite like 11th hour drama the night before closing when you’re in a hotel room and have nowhere else to go). We were so done with the back-and-forth nitty-gritty red tape side of the home purchase--so very done with it.
We were excited, and nervous, and a little scared. It was bitterly cold the night before we closed (note: if you have a carload of houseplants do NOT leave them in the car over night in the parking lot of a hotel—they will die) and we longed for the tedious paperwork side of the closing part to be over and done with so we could move on with the business of setting up our new home. I ached to be inside of it; to own it, to fill it up with our smells and our sounds; to get to work painting the children’s bedrooms, and spreading out in all that new, glorious space.
I’ve never understood people who treat homes like just real estate; people who live somewhere for a couple of years, then sell the place to upgrade to something bigger and better, while always thinking about the next best thing. It’s one thing to have to move house often, and another to choose to do it because you’re always chasing something different. When we bought our first home in February of 2002 we bought it planning to live there forever. Sometimes things don’t work out, though; you find there are too many expensive and unfixable problems with the house you once thought had been perfect. You might also find out, four months after you move in, that somewhere along the line of owners, a man ran a mortuary business out of the unfinished basement. But whatever the reason, you have to move. It was tough on the kids—even on T., who was so small. Her bedroom in that first house was tiny and yellow. Her bedroom in the new house was huge—too big for the little scrap of a girl she was when we moved in that day in December, 8 years ago. I painted her room yellow for her, so she’d feel safer in there.
Later in the day on the 8th, after we had closed, we took L. back to the old house. It was empty, stripped of all the things that had once made it a home; without them it was just…a house. A small, plain, simple ranch house with whitish-gray Berber carpet I hated, and parquet floors in the kitchen that needed refinishing. But it had been our house, our first home, the place where L. had moved from crib to bed and where I had sat with baby T. for endless hours, nursing and rocking and thinking and nursing. L. walked through the rooms slowly, quietly, and then stood in the front living room, his face frozen in a terrible, sad expression. Then in a moment of overwhelming, choking emotion, he buried it in Scott’s jacket for a moment. That was the only emotion he ever showed about it all, but it was enough.
There have been many times I missed the place we left; not because I missed the home itself, but I missed who we had been there. I missed the space that had once held my baby kids, and the corner of the finished part of the basement where I had sat for hours, playing and reading to L. I missed the kitchen, where I had paced with T. in the wee hours of the night, watching the way the light filtered in through the windows (at night the parquet even looked nice). I think you can't help but miss a place that saw so many beginnings, when you move into a place that you know will see so many changes, as your kids grow up and out of the rooms that once seemed so very large.
We love this home, inside and outside, upstairs and downstairs, faults and all, and despite the household to-do list that seems to grow longer each month. Now, three years later, I can say we've settled into it at last, and it's settled around us. I'm so very grateful for it: this house, this home.
Happy three-year anniversary, house.