It’s impossible not to feel overwhelmed with sentiment and emotion as I pack up my family and ready us to move out of the first home we ever owned. A decade ago, a young, excited engaged couple made the traditional migration from a thrilling life in the big city to settling down into quiet suburban living.
In the years that followed, we filled this home with a marriage, two children, pets, ups, downs, and in betweens — moments of love and laughter have bounced joyfully off these walls, while times of sadness and regret have seeped deeply into its cracks and crevices. I can see the memories in every corner of every room — from smalls scuffs left on the baseboards from tiny kicking feet to art projects depicting our happy family taped lovingly to bedroom walls.
I go through the house daily, methodically emptying drawers and clearing shelves. In this endless quest, items that were once thought to be gone forever begin to resurface. I come across a bag containing the clothes my son wore home from the hospital — I had put it away for “safe keeping” in his closet over seven years ago and then, naturally, forgot it existed.
I inhale deeply, it has since lost its newborn baby smell, but the memories of that day come flooding back as though it were yesterday. He was so small, a mere 5 pounds and 13 ounces, who he didn’t fit into the newborn-sized onsie we had purchased for him and we had to fashion an outfit out of clothes the hospital provided. A smile breaks out on my face and a tear streams down my cheek as I am swept up in the joy of the memory.
I move on to my bedroom closet with a broom stick in hand to help knock down items stored long ago on it’s very top shelf. A white, pleather bowling bag falls and almost hits me in the head. I rifle through its contents and find Madonna-style 80’s lace gloves, handcuffs, edible underwear, and other kinky goodies. Holy shit, the gag bag from my bachelorette party! I am inundated with more memories: a bonfire on the beach, lobster dinner al fresco, and penis-shaped shot glasses filled with too much tequila. Suddenly, I feel old and tired; I’m so far removed from that young and carefree bachelorette.
All this mess, all this purging and packing, has been an emotional roller coaster. I am tense and exhausted.
I have spent months endlessly scavenging furniture stores and websites for new and fabulous items, vowing to fill our home with beautiful and clean couches and rugs that have not been stained by children and gnawed on by pets. Countless hours have been devoted to choosing the perfect wall colors to compliment the new and attractive “big-girl home” I am determined to have. Walls filled with color that have not been marked up by crafting projects or dirt stained little fingers.
All this time, all this effort to create a new, improved, beautiful home, a home that is nothing like the dirty piece meal house I live in now. I am anxious and feel undue pressure.
There has been so much time and effort dedicated to salvaging what we can still use, tossing the old and searching for the new, that the meaning of the move has been lost on me entirely. This house — no, this home — wasn’t born out of “stuff;” it was created by the people who dwell in it. I have completely overlooked, or quite possibly just ignored, the fact these walls have seen the growth of family. To avoid the overwhelming emotion that accompanies leaving my home, I have placed more value on the items inside of it than on the feelings, sentiment, and memories that it holds.
I became a wife in this house. My husband and I were just three months shy of our wedding day when we moved in. I can see us as newlyweds, glowing with love and enthusiasm, unmarred by the life that was to unfold before us. I can feel the love we had for each other, new and eager to please, carefree and wildly passionate. I learned how to be a wife in this house, how to be a partner. I learned about communication and compromise and how to come to resolutions together as a team.
I hear the faint echo of words spoken in times when we both thought we would never make it, when we were ready to give up on our marriage and go our separate ways. I sit now in our bedroom and see the spot where he stood when we decided that we loved each other and our family far too much to give up and decided that we were worth fighting for. I feel surrounded by the love we share now, as we have come out on the other side stronger and even better than before.
I became a mother in this house. I can see the spot where I peed on the stick for the first, and second time. I still have the same garbage can that I tossed those pregnancy tests into after they gave me the answers that I was hoping for. I sit, right now, in the very bed where I napped together with my babies, desperate for some shut eye. I can see the chair I sat in as I pumped my milk, praying that just one more ounce would come out. I can feel the relief in the room where I decided to stop pumping and just feed my child formula, because I wasn’t a failure, I was just doing what I had to do.
I can picture the messes made and the floors littered with clothes that my then-undiagnosed ADHD son created in his tornado phase. He moved swiftly and with purpose destroying much of our house. I can sit at the table where he used to feed his little sister and speak the words, “Millie’s talkin to me!!!”
I can relax on the couch where he first held her the day we brought her home. I can return to the spot in my closet where I would hide and cry because motherhood was not what I expected and it stunned me to think that I was not as happy as I “should be.” I can feel the warmth and the love of all the moments of laughter, triumph, fun, enjoyment, first times, and continued successes that this house has brought us.
I became a sober woman in this house, deciding once and for all that I could no longer successfully drink. I see the spot where I crumbled in fear and desperation as the realization took hold that I needed more help that I had been willing to admit.
I became a student in this house. After picking myself up and dusting off the remains of my unhappiness, I sit at the very computer where I filled out the applications and the wrote essays that would take me on this next journey in my life.
I grew up in this house, becoming a woman I am proud to be — a happy woman, the woman I always knew I could be.
If my walls could talk, they would tell me of failures and triumphs, of sadness and successes. They would share with me the pride with which they have surrounded me and my family. There is no new couch or new rug that matters more than the growth and the memories of the home that I have built with my family. I will cry when we leave all these memories behind, having safely stowed them in my heart. I will open the door to my new home with excitement and eagerness for the new memories we shall continue to forge together.