On Moving...and Moving On

by Dina Relles
Originally Published: 

We’re selling our home and moving. I know what you’re thinking. You’re totally jealous, because packing up a house you’ve lived in for six years, and while three kids are living in it, sounds like your idea of a good time.

I can assure you—it’s a mixed bag.

“The goal is to make it look like the prospective buyers’ home, not yours,” a realtor matter-of-factly advises.

I get the carpets cleaned. I scrub the dirt off the walls. The nail polish streaks, the grimy handprints, the errant crayon markings—it all (thankfully) comes off.

I straighten the closets, donate furniture, toss applesauce and breakfast bars long past their prime, gather and organize dozens of stray coins (husband’s), Lego pieces (kids’), and travel-sized moisturizers (mine). I tuck away the baby clothes and sleep sacks my kids have outgrown and we no longer need, until…

I unearth memories.

I find an old picture my husband took of me hours before he proposed. My eyes are cast downward as I stare intently at a VHS (!) case in a video rental store (remember those?), deep in thought over what to watch that night (oh our twenties!), flat-stomached (remember that?) and content. I look at it for a long minute. For some reason, I leave it out on my dresser.

I put away picture frames holding images of the boys—some showing those sweet, plump-cheeked baby faces I can hardly remember, others the playful smirks of a toddler.

I hide the kids’ favorite bedtime stories in drawers, pack up the “daily sheets” chronicling their years at day care—I’ve saved every one. I put the water table out by the curb on trash day, wistfully recalling the fun the boys had playing with it. This winter’s cold made it crack right down the middle.

I purge my closet and get rid of the skinny jeans. It’s liberating. I finally trash my law school outlines, but I keep that naively optimistic college paper on The Social Contract. Tucked away under the bed, of course.

I part with the rocking chair my mother had when I was a baby. After all, one arm is broken. It’s time.

I tidy and scrub and clean and conceal.

I try to make it seem like we never lived here. But we did.

This is the carpet on which my sons did “tummy time,” learned to crawl, and then walk. These are the hallways we paced to soothe our newborns to sleep. That’s the roof deck we ran to when my feisty firstborn would only settle in the fresh summer evening air. There’s the front stoop I sat on to pass the lonely, lovely days of my maternity leaves.

See that scratch on the back of the kids’ bedroom door? That’s from when my son kicked it so hard during a tantrum that he knocked it right into the bookcase. See those marks on the bottom of the kitchen cabinets? They’re from when my boys rode their bikes along the length of our first floor to blow off steam before bed or during the long, endless winter days when we couldn’t get outside.

See this staircase? That’s where I lay when I was in labor for the first time. From that top step, we counted and measured the intensity of those sweet, early contractions—the ones that started it all.

That front door? We walked through it with each of our babies as we brought them home from the hospital four blocks away. That rocking chair in the corner? I nursed all three of my sons there while “Baby Mine” played softly in the background.

Now we move on. It’ll be good for us, I know. A new state, new schools, new jobs, new friends, a new chapter. It’s good to have a fresh start sometimes.

But oh how I’ll miss these playgrounds! These familiar streets. The way my kids know the way from home to school by heart. How we can hardly make it to the corner without passing a friend or neighbor—how those have become one and the same.

But as I’ve cleaned and purged, I’ve learned. It’s not about these four walls. It’s not the house that makes it a home. What we’ve created here—this family, these memories—they’re coming with us. It’s not about the things, or even the places. It all makes you who you are. And you take that with you wherever you go.

We’ll do our best to make this house look like someone else’s home. For now, though? It’s ours. And in some way, it always will be.

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