saying goodbye

I’ve been trying to process the huge life event that’s upon us. We will be moving out of our current home to a new place in anywhere from five to seventeen days. The lack of particulars in this big change have been sending my color-coded-over-planning heart into panicky flutters throughout the day. I’m steadying myself with king size Butterfingers, chats with friends, and asking one million questions to our ever-available and amazing realtors Randy and Lorrie.

My counselor reminded me the other day that leaving a home is much like the grieving process. I don’t know what step I’m on right now but I’ve been doing a lot of weepy reflection. Is this the depression stage? It’s not that I want to keep this house over the new one. But I am caught in a space between letting go of our first true home, one that we have (ok, mostly Mike has) put blood, sweat and tears into and planning for a new one that will require an accepting heart of come as you are.

As I look through pictures, I’m struck by how these spaces hold our precious memories. It’s been the setting of so many of our stories. So in an act of saying farewell, I thought I’d gather some pictures to look upon the spaces that have held us. A celebration of life, I suppose.

We bought this house almost ten years ago. It was a 1970s museum, previously owned by an elderly couple named Agnes and Harold Frasier. Harold left a literal treasure chest full of his cuff links, coins, and blingy rings in the attic. He must have been a dapper man. And Agnes, well, she left her mark on every room with layers upon layers of drapery and valences and an old lady smell that still escapes from the original cupboards sometimes. Even though I’m not super convinced of the existence of ghosts, I’m pretty sure that Agnes is still present here. Over the years, I believe we’ve made peace with her over changing the home that she so painstakingly designed. I’ve also developed a little story that she didn’t have any grandchildren, so I invited her to watch over my kids. It’s creepy and weird but how I’ve decided to deal with the possibility of her haunting. That, and I don’t look in reflective surfaces when I’m home alone.

I walked into this house with visions of changing everything. And I nearly succeeded, leaving every room at least slightly remodeled. I’m really good at demolition, at purging and destroying. But building and redesign aren’t my strength. So we lived nearly ten years in a three-quarter renovated house. I don’t recommend this and hope it’s not the story of our new place.

I know a house is just a physical structure. Four walls and a roof. But our home has been a place of inexplicable beauty and joy. From our neighbor Minh, who brings us pears each summer, to the delight of a toddler seeing her first snowfall. This place has offered us discovery and promise and actual rainbows.

It has also been a place of grief, where we lost two small flickers of life. It holds the yellow linoleum floor that I lay face down on and screamed out “No!” when I began to bleed. It’s where the toilet flushed and my heart broke into a million pieces.

This is my favorite tree, the crab apple tree, that Mikey wanted to cut down. This is because it’s overgrown and, after a week or two of the most glorious fuchsia blooms, it covers our yard in dead, pinkish-white petals like an early winter snow in Michigan. It reminds me of the tree I had in my yard growing up. I climbed that tree religiously each summer, getting braver and braver with every high branch I conquered. I also fell out of it once, hanging upside down with my heal stuck in the crotch of one of its branches and landing on my head when I yanked it free. I told Mike that he can’t cut this tree down because I want to climb it. “When will you ever climb it?” he asked. “Right now,” I replied and, in a silly act of obstinance, I went and climbed in it. I have climbed it a few more times over the years, but only to save it from Mike’s chainsaw like a Green Peace activist.

Our home has been a new beginnings place. Where I labored in the early hours of birth, the place to which we brought our babies home from the hospital, and where a permanent trench formed on my side of the bed while I healed in the postpartum weeks.

This is our yard, a very stubborn yard, that we’ve toiled in for days on end to bring out its beauty. In spite of my uncanny ability to kill plants, some have thrived reminding me that some living things are just plain bad ass and resilient. A good metaphor for life.

The windowsill in the kitchen has the very best light in the house. This room was built by my hard-working hubby and it’s the place where I’ve shown my love through cookies and soups and hundreds of roast chickens over the years. And for a while, the sink was the only bathtub Mila ever knew.

Here is the infamous bathroom, the one that finally came to fruition after several patient years. Michael’s face says exactly how I felt when it was completed.

These are the bedrooms where we do a lot of not sleeping. The beds will go but the walls will remain, holding someone new while they snuggle or play or dream.

These dirty dirty floors have been swept one million times. I have the sounds of everyone’s footsteps memorized, including the clicking of the dogs’ nails and the terrifying tread of toddler feet, which is alarmingly loud in the middle of the night. We’ve danced and we’ve stomped on them, scratched them and some of us have even peed on them.

And soon, we will offer up this house to someone else to grow and love and build in. I hope that I will greet our new home with the same reflective understanding that I leave this one.

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