When we saw this square brick bungalow for the first time, from the window of the Jetta, I couldn’t believe how pretty it was, stuck in between a host of not-as-pretty houses. The two-tiered lawn, divided by the cobblestone wall; the big, covered front porch. We went inside and it was empty, so the rooms felt spacious and tall. There was a dead cockroach in the corner of the living room, which made me nervous, but otherwise it was charming. Old, a little crooked, but lovely. We bought it a month later. That was five years ago. On Friday, we’ll move out.
I have been tip-toeing around the inevitability of processing this for a month, afraid of the emotional energy it would take. I am a homebody—in the sense that I grow deeply attached to home. Every move as a child unearthed and unsettled me deeply, and though this month has been busy, exhausting, stressful and unpredictable, and though I am an adult now with children of my own, and though we aren’t leaving town, I have avoided mentally confronting the ‘move’ because I know deep down inside myself I will be unearthed and unsettled again, which is a combination of feelings I despise.
Perhaps it would be helpful to think back on the ways this house has let us down. There have been the infestations – rats, black widows, ants, mice, carpenter bees. There was the time the main pipe from the street water to our house cracked like glass and we had to pay to have someone dig a trench through our lawn, break down the wall, destroy the grass. There was the leak in the roof to the living room. The leak in the roof to the attic. The leak in the roof to the dining room. There was the fact that we could set the temperature to sixty-eight all winter, and never see the thermostat rise above sixty-three. There was the tree that dropped limbs weighing hundreds of pounds in the back yard. There was that first neighbor with five junk yard dogs who howled all night long outside our window. There was the fact that we could never seem to grow grass on the west side of the front lawn. There was the day last winter when the high was eight degrees, and the heat went out.
But, glory. How this house has loved us. There was the streaming sunshine through the kitchen window shining on the original, glossy hardwood floors in the morning, the afternoon sun in our bedroom on the duvet, making the whole room a soft, heavenly white. Those hardwoods in every single room, creaky like something from a Victorian romance. The tall ceilings that allowed us to buy a bigger tree in December. The thick, white molding around every window, door, and inch of floor. There was the porch, the two white rocking chairs, where we sat for at least a thousand hours. Mornings with coffee, afternoons with lemonade, evenings with wine. There was the window in the shower, which you could open at the top so the breeze would come down fresh while you got clean. There was the dining room wall full of photographs of people we love. The back room, which was ugly and abused for a few years, but which became a nursery.
There was the way Sidney couldn’t walk on the floors when she was a puppy, so she’d slide around on her belly like a snake, always trying to gain traction. There was the morning we found out – after a sad, sad year of no’s – that we’d have a baby, and I ran in and jumped on top of Mark at 5:30 in the morning, hurling him out of dead sleep, into joy! The afternoon, on the porch, we found out it was a boy. The day we brought Jack to the house – the coldest mid-March I can remember, and he met Sidney. There were hundreds of early mornings at my desk, working on the book, staring out the window searching for vocabulary. There were dinners on dinners with dear friends, and a handful of special parties, when we strung up lights and lit candles, made fancy appetizers and drank bourbon, toasting to birthdays and friendship and family. There were evenings I stood dressed up in front of the full-length mirror, evaluating heels, dangly earrings and dresses; and evenings I stood in that same spot with my hands on my stomach, wondering how big it would get in forty weeks, if my feet would go back to normal, if my profile would ever be the same again. There were mornings we drank coffee quietly together, mornings we woke up to Jack singing in his crib. There was so much happy here.
And there were sad, fearful, lonely, long, trying, angry days, too. A good number of them. It wouldn’t be fair to pretend there weren’t.
It wasn’t just five years, it was these five years, our five years, for which this house was home base, and in leaving, we are saying goodbye to a fabulous era. Oddly, one thing keeps returning to me. The fact that this house was built in 1938, that there were perhaps a dozen families or more who had their five years here, or ten, or twenty. Maybe that’s what has made the house so kind and warm, it had a lot of practice being a home before we got here.
We’re moving on! There is a season for everything, and I guess it’s a fit time for us to leave this house. Time for a new house to make home, for the next years. But I’m taking this time, right now in the midst of the chaos, to make a promise to this sweet, old house – and to myself – that I won’t ever forget the simplicity and joy of our life here.