When we walked in to what would become our first house, in the middle of the week on our lunch breaks, I was anxious. I wish I could go back to that moment and see the house through those fresh eyes, to re-experience what I felt. I can’t exactly remember, to be honest. I remember little things, like I loved the opaque glass bowl sink in the bathroom and the recessed lighting in the bedroom hooked up to a dimmer switch. I remember sort of hating the kitchen, but compared to everything else we had seen over the past couple months, I was ok with overlooking tiny details like the room we would stand in at least three times every day to prepare every single meal we ate.
We put in an offer a couple hours later, and by the end of the day we were homeowners-to-be. It was May, and our wedding was three months away. We were to close on our first home less than a month before we were to say “I do.”
A big group of friends helped us move in record time, and we were out of our little condo and into our new home by lunchtime. A couple weeks later I was standing with shaking hands in our little bathroom with the opaque glass sink staring at two pink lines, bright and clear on the pink and white pregnancy test. And that’s what this house has become to me: an intimate part of my life story.
“What exactly is it about the house that you are going to miss so much?” my husband asked as we drove around our soon to be new neighborhood as the sun set. I had just told him how before jumping in the car I had ran down the attic stairs and suddenly was overcome with emotion.
“I think what it is,” I told him, “is that house holds all the memories.”
As I walk though it every day I am physically reminded – these are the steps I lugged my suitcase down with a thunk, thunk, thud the morning before we left to have our daughter. This is the room I would watch as the sun moved slowly from one side to another. This is the smooth porcelain tub I crawled into with a book and bubbles every night. This is the counter I set two positive pregnancy tests on. This is the floor I spilt not one but two martinis in a row on one night as we laughed with friends. This is the lumpy, hilly yard I watched Gia crawl then walk then run then dance through on optimistic spring afternoons when I was itching for summer.
And I walk past these things every day. I live in the space where they all occurred, and they sit vivid and clear in my mind. I live among these memories. And in a few weeks we will close these doors one last time and we will never set foot in this place again, this place where all these memories were born.
This is the house I watched my stomach grow and stretch in, where I was laying on the couch one Fall evening and saw for the first time little kicks and elbows making my belly move from the outside. Its where the room that was initially planned to be the office became the baby’s room. The house where I spent six of the ten hours I was in labor. The house we walked out of as a couple and walked back into as a family of three.
This is the house that I hated at times, that was never new and shiny enough. I wanted higher ceilings, bigger spaces, bigger windows and more bright light. I wanted the rooms I saw on Pinterest, I wanted the brand new crisp homes of friends, not the 1950s model we had. Nearly every time I cleaned the kitchen I cursed it, cursed its ugly, worn original cabinets and countertops, cursed the off-white everything, the dim yellow lighting, the old white appliances.
This was the house where I battled with the transition of going from a full-time career girl who spent Thursday through Sunday out and about with friends and her fiancé, more often than not out until the wee morning hours, because, why not? To a stay at home mom who works part-time from home and wife whose life felt like it belonged to someone who I had never even met before. This was the house I spent hours on the hard wood floor with my daughter, watching her kick and coo and learn to crawl and walk. This was the house where I started reading again, like, really reading, and writing too.
This was the house where we dug up hard, horrible dirt/mud/clay on a cold November day and planted hopeful red and yellow tulips all in a line. This was the house where five months later they popped through that terrible cold, hard ground and brought me so much joy I thought my heart might explode. This is the house my husband sweat over, making repairs and remodels with his dad and attempting to landscape and make me a garden. Its where we planted our first little tree surrounded by pink and purple flowers that made my heart soar every time I caught glimpse of it.
Its where my husband and I stayed up late after Gia went to bed, talking and sipping martinis and Coors Lights. Its where we occasionally hot-tubbed on the coldest, darkest nights, where we sat on the front steps and watched warm summer sunsets. Its where we drew at least one thousand pieces of chalk art, where we blew countless bubbles, where Gia liked to “crunch” the leaves under her feet that lined our sidewalk.
And with time the path that I walked in the hallway to avoid the creaky boards will wash away little by little. I will have the memories but I won’t ever live among them again.
And I know, I know we will make new memories. And of course many of the memories will stay. But the sensory experience will be gone. The exact height and width of our narrow, steep blue carpeted staircase. The way our 1950s house smelled when the breeze would pass through the open windows. The way the sun set through the neighbor’s tree and lit up our bedroom and living room in gold. The sound of my husband’s side garage door rolling shut and the click of his key in the deadbolt. I won’t again get to see our tiny living room wrapped in Christmas lights, or walk the same path turning off lamps and closing blinds before bedtime.
I left this house one sparkly summer morning with one last name and returned the next day with a new one. I left this house one crisp spring night with my husband by my side and returned 36 hours later with a new baby blinking curiously in her car seat. I’m leaving this house with her brother, the final piece of our family, still growing in my belly, but I’ll never open the door to a room here to set him inside. He will never have a memory of this place where this family was began.
This house welcomed me, a young, vibrant, tanned and carefree bride-to-be and is sending me off with a soon-to-be family of four. It saw me through the hands down toughest season of my life thus far as a new mom. It saw me to the other side, where last week I was going through the last years worth of pictures for Christmas cards and I suddenly gasped out loud to nobody in particular – “Oh my God! This was such a great year!”
Yeah, we eventually transformed that kitchen we hated, with a lot of help. Now it is bright white and deep red and sparkling black. Every inch of it is brand new, from the floor to the ceiling and everything in between. We lived here only three and a half short years. We thought it would be more like five or eight, that our daughter would go to the school down the road and our babies would have to share a room and we would have to save and save and save and maybe someday we could move.
Its funny how life works, that once we fixed what we hated most it was time to leave. I woke up one morning and just knew, it was time. I didn’t know if we could actually do it, or how we would do it, but we did. I still don’t know how it all happened. But it did.
And now I look out the window at the great tree in our neighbor’s yard, the one that looked beautiful in summer, spring, winter and fall. I look as its leaves turn yellow for the last time I will watch them from the window of our living room, and I feel that thing where you remember every single good time and bad time and mundane time and incredible moment and it all rolls into your brain fast and hard and comes out as a lump in your throat and prickly tears in your eyes.
In a matter of days, we will walk out the doors for the last time, turn our key in the deadbolt for the last time. We will be exhausted from packing and cleaning, packing up all those memories, cleaning the house fresh so it is ready to welcome a new family. My husband will honk the horn as we pull out of the driveway for the last time, like he did every morning as he left for work.
And we will drive.
And I will cry.
Because I’m so happy, because I’m so sad, and probably because I’m so tired.
And I will blow a little kiss goodbye to the house that holds the memories.