The day before we closed on our old house, I told the kids (with a bit of drama and gravity) that we were going to the old house to have dinner for the last time. I wanted to gauge their emotions, did they seem reluctant to go to the old house? Excited? Apathetic?
Mary Virginia balled up her fists and started shaking as elation washed over her and she exclaimed, “TODAY IS THE LAST TIME WE HAVE TO EAT DINNER!!!?!?”
We spread a blanket in the living room and ate dinner. Then, while Tom mowed the grass one last time, the kids ran through the house and declared it “boring”.
We went outside and picked our blackberry bush clean, then we said goodbye to the neighbors. The kids ended spending more time playing at the neighbor’s house than they did in ours, which was the perfect way to spend the afternoon because when we said goodbye to our house we also said goodbye to our wonderful, welcoming neighborhood — the block where my kids felt so comfortable (too comfortable?) running wild in everyone’s yards, playing with lawn ornaments that didn’t belong to us, and swinging on low dogwood branches (that also didn’t belong to us).
Even though we moved out a month ago, the familiarity of the old house was jarring. The sound of my feet on the front steps, the feel of holding a baby with one hand and opening the front door with the other. In our time here I got to know every inch of this house’s 1240 square feet.
When we moved into this house five years ago, I didn’t really love it. When we bought it, it didn’t sing to me, but I knew it was fine. I knew it would do — and it did. And slowly, in the five years we lived there, I fell in love with the house and the neighborhood. What’s more, as I grew into my role as a mother there. By the time we moved it was hard to imagine raising my kids anywhere else. It felt like the home was inextricably linked to me as a mother. What would motherhood look like without nature walks in the alley, friends on the sidewalk, tripping over toys and furniture and babies in every room because there was no space.
We were very, very excited to move to our new home, but that doesn’t mean that when we said goodbye to our old home I didn’t have a lump in my throat.
The kitchen, where I made probably a thousand loaves of bread and wiped the counters at least twice.
The big kids’ room.
This was the site of goodnight stories, and this is where we sent them for time out. This is where David slept and Mary Virginia not-slept.
I’ll never forget the first night we moved David out of his bassinet and put him to bed in his crib, how he felt so far away even though it was probably just 10 feet. Their room shared a wall with ours, and that closeness is exactly why living in a small house was so wonderful.
The master bedroom, where I slept, uninterrupted, one or two or maybe even three nights.
The backyard, so many happy hours in the backyard under that beautiful tree, with clothes on the clothesline and David running in the sprinkler while Mary Virginia stood by, wrapped in a towel and horrified.
The backyard is also where someone climbed in our window and robbed our house. Oh yeah, remember that?
We didn’t live here long but the years we lived here were huge years, probably the most important years of my life so far. This is where I brought my babies home, where they took their first steps. This is where I first watched Arrested Development.
I can be very, very sentimental and resistant to change, and surrounding the move I’ve reminded my emotions over and over that the joy of this home was in the family that lived there. And when we left Grace St., we took all of our memories with us.
But I’m sad about the tangible things, too. With our house goes the front sidewalk where we spent hours drawing with chalk and playing with neighbors. Goes the backyard where we threw birthday parties and played on crisp spring mornings, goes the oak tree where I sat holding my newborn while my big kids played on hot summer days. Goes the bedroom where I paced for hours in the middle of the night after my water broke. Goes the living room where my kids learned to crawl and then took their first cautious steps.
When the new owners move in, they get all of those things.
But if they happen to find any forgotten Lightning McQueen cars in the backyard, well, we’re going to need those back.