Ten years ago, we had so much room.
When we first moved into our house, I was frequently overwhelmed. When the last box was unpacked and I had not put anything except our off-season clothes in the two "extra" bedrooms of our three-bedroom home, I nearly cried. I walked into those empty rooms and wondered what in the world I was going to fill them with until the kids came along.
Exactly one year later, with a large belly and swollen feet, I painted the walls of the smallest extra bedroom and prepared for the crib, dresser, and bookcase to come. That room filled up fast.
Before that baby girl I was carrying was even born, my mom and dad offered us the bed I had slept in during visits home in college, which they had bought for my 19th birthday in what I honestly think was an attempt to lure me back home. They wanted it to be their granddaughter's big-girl bed. It went into the larger room with my old dresser and bed-side table from home. Before Ainsley had slept a single night in her crib, her big-girl room was furnished and ready for her.
In ten years' time, we've filled every closet, every corner, every cabinet, every shelf. We've painted every room except the kitchen, the color of which never has offended us. The walls and tabletops are full of our pictures, the bookcases full of our books, the knick-knacks and toys here and there our memories.
And now it's time to move on.
For a couple of years now, Jason has been telling me it's time to go. It's a great time to buy, he says. We can get a good house for our money. I've dodged it, telling him that I'm perfectly happy in our little character-less bilelvel just like every other character-less bilevel on the street. It might be a boring little house, but it's MY boring little house. I tell him the truth when I say that I couldn't care less about having a nicer house in a nicer neighborhood. And then I say I will know when it's time to move on.
The day THAT house goes for sale, I say, pointing to one of a dozen or so dreamhouses I pass in my travels, that will be the day I decide to move. I want to find the perfect house first.
But there is no such thing as a perfect house. And as Jason's commute has gotten longer and longer over the years, as he's gone from consulting to full-time downtown to full-time well north of the 'Nati, and as we've started chaueffering the kid from different activities in different parts of our world, I've realized the time is right.
And I'm equal parts excited and terrified.
One day, on a whim, we stopped in at an open house for a surprisingly affordable home in a neighborhoood we've always wanted to live in. And one week later we were meeting with a real estate agent. We are not impulsive people at all, but the speed with which we decided to put that For Sale sign in our yard would make your head spin.
It certainly did ours.
In one frantic week, we did months, perhaps years, worth of de-cluttering and home repairs. Ten years worth of accumulated detritus was sorted, bagged, given away, thrown away. A handful of personal items were put into storage; the rest we decided we could live without. It was more emotionally and physically exhausting than I imagined cleaning out and starting a new chapter to be. But our house is simpler, cleaner. Things that have been on the to-do list for almost a decade are finally done.
It makes me realize why I chose that house to begin with. Without all the clutter, you can see all the things that made us, as a young couple, choose that particular house. The large southwest-facing front windows that let late-afternoon sunlight come into the living room and chase the blues away, even on winter days. The French doors that open onto the deck from the master bedroom; I always envisioned long early-morning breakfasts right outside those doors. They didn't happen, but they might still. The built-in bookcases in the family room that highlight the greatest material love of my life: my books. I have yet to meet a person who didn't have a moment during the selling process of, "If only I had kept this place looking this good all the time, I might not want to move."
It was, and is, a good house with a lot of memories. It was here that I welcomed my baby home. It was here that I found solace and comfort during chemo and radiation. It was here that Scout roamed the halls and warmed herself in the sunlight. It was here where my dad spent his last Christmas Day, where Kathie once spent a long, happy weekend, where we met with Jason's family to sort through pictures, laugh, cry, and make funeral arrangements.
A lot of living has gone on in that simple little house in the cul-de-sac. We're still months away from leaving it (who knows; we may not be able to sell it) but so much of what made it ours has been neutralized to make it appeal to another family. A family who will have their own ups and downs and joys and tragedies inside its walls.
It's still our house, but it's not really our home anymore.
By the time we sell, the house we have our eye on may not be available anymore. But I'm not really afraid. I know now what it takes to make a home--time, family, love, and memories. As long as I have those, and maybe a front porch, I can be happy wherever we next put down our roots.