I know this place.
For twenty-four years we’ve lived here. I arrived, almost thirty years old with my one year old baby girl in my arms. I had fought moving to this suburban community for two years, but my husband was right – it was the perfect place to raise a family. So that’s what we did. We bought our starter home. We raised our family.
Twenty-four years later, we’re selling the starter home and looking for our next, and presumably forever home.
There isn’t a surface in this house that hasn’t been changed since we moved in. Every doorknob, every window, every closet and drawer and faucet and floor – it’s all been redone. We’ve added square footage, a pool, a front lawn and sliding glass doors. We’ve remodeled the kitchen, both bathrooms, smoothed the popcorn ceilings, painted, wallpapered, painted again. We’ve taken out trees and added new landscaping. We’ve hung photos and artwork, chandeliers and built-ins. We’ve bought furniture and sheets and towels and pots and pans and wooden spoons.
The exterior has been at least five different colors, perhaps more.
We brought our baby boy here – home – when he was born. We had uncountable family gatherings, grandparents and great-grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. My father lived here for a while. My brother-in-law came, every week for two nights, for six years, to stay in our grown daughter’s room. My mother was here for five weeks after knee surgery. We welcomed anyone who needed a place to stay, including our son’s half-dozen closest friends in high school, one or two or more nearly every weekend. We had birthday parties, team parties, pre-game dinners, pool parties, a wedding, a memorial service, all in 2100 square feet, over twenty-four years. We celebrated, we laughed so much, we sang, we danced, we drank, we ate – bagels and danish and meatloaf and Greek chicken, matzo ball soup and brisket and turkey and noodle kugel, Caesar salad and cut up apples and carrots and dip. And brownies. Thousands of brownies, baked from scratch, devoured by hungry children and “I really shouldn’t” adults.
There have been countless naps on sofas, on beds, in chairs.
We cried. We didn’t make the team, or failed a test. Our friends were mean, our hearts got broken. We mourned people we loved, together and in solitude. We fought, we yelled, we demanded, criticized, hurt each other’s feelings. We were deeply disappointed or infuriated. We were just sad.
All of this, every moment, is in these walls, in the view out the window, in the color of the bougainvillea, the big palm leaves that fall from the tree in the front yard when they die. It’s deep in the closets, buried in a box or a drawer, waiting to surprise me as I sort and toss and prepare for eventually leaving this place. It’s around the dining room table, which I’ve set and fussed about with crystal and china, tablecloths and linen napkins and my grandmother’s sterling, for seders and Thanksgiving, dinner parties with friends when we sat for hours, talking and talking.
It was in the quiet of a weekday morning, the kids at school, a book in my lap, happy. This was what I always wanted, this place, these people, this life.
But now it’s time to go. There are moments when I feel an overwhelming sadness here, surrounded by memories of days that made up the years of my life that are over now. I miss it all so much sometimes – even as I enjoy this time, these quieter and calmer days, my husband and me and our dog, a different kind of wonderful.
It’s time to go. But I could never leave this place behind. It’s in me, in my bones, as much a part of me as my DNA. It is me…or it was. But it’s time.
to be continued...