Dear First Home,
I stopped by this morning to see you one last time. You know that, of course, because you were there. I just wanted a quiet moment by myself to say goodbye. I'm sorry I cried so much as I walked from room to room. I knew I would be sad to close this chapter, but I wasn't expecting to be so overwhelmed by the memories and by how much you meant to me.
You see, you were my first house ever. I was two years removed from a divorce and had worked so hard to put myself in a position in which I could provide a home for my family. It was such a sense of accomplishment to use my key and walk through your front door for the first time in September 2011. The tears I shed that day were ones of joy and thankfulness. That day and on many other days that followed, it took my breath away when I realized just how fortunate my kids and I were to be living within your walls.
It's because of you that I learned how to fix a toilet and repair a clogged refrigerator drain and understand electrical systems and caulk a bathtub and clean gutters and reset a pilot light. I'm sorry that I didn't always take care of you like I should. I definitely still required the kindness and expertise of neighbors when you experienced some problems. But please know that if I let things slide from time to time, it wasn't due to lack of care.
But even more important than offering me my first chance at home ownership, you provided the backdrop for family memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life. As I stopped to take in each view one last time, I remembered some of those moments.
I stared down the block at the bus stop where both of my kids rode off to kindergarten to start their school careers and the road where they learned to ride bikes and played hours of baseball and football and racing and foursquare and where Ian's best friend would come running down to greet us as soon as he saw us come home. You know this about my family . . . if it was above freezing and there was no lightning nearby, my kids were expected to leave your walls and play outside.
I looked at the homes that surrounded us and whispered a quiet thank you to the neighbors who had become dear friends. Over the years, they have removed splinters and fixed my car and gathered chairs in driveways for hours of beverages and conversations and hugged me as I cried during difficult moments and cared for my children and built a basketball hoop and encouraged me and tied a screwdriver to a bunch of shirts that I had tied together and lowered down a window when I was trapped in a second-story bedroom. With these men and women, I was part of a real community. I love them all and I already miss them. (And now I'm crying again)
I walked around to the back of my house and looked at the woods and creek where my kids and their friends spent hours exploring and building forts and pretending that large plastic bins were boats in a foreign land. I then pictured it was pouring rain and how that only would increase the opportunities for muddy fun. I thought about the evenings catching fireflies and how we never grew tired of watching the deer who would graze in our yard every evening at dusk.
Inside the house, I looked at the empty floor on which the kids and I would have family slumber parties, playing board games and watching awful movies. I stared at the kitchen where we made Christmas cookies and dyed Easter eggs and decorated birthday cakes that were decidedly homemade but unique and crafted with love.
I went upstairs and walked into Ian's room. How was he two years old when we moved here and now he's a rising second grader? He mastered the toddler tantrum behind a door in this room. He learned to read in this room and built castles with his Legos for hours on the floor and made homemade posters of his favorite sports to hang on the walls. I walked into this room every night before I went to bed and kissed his cheek as he slept and whispered I loved him so much.
I moved into Catherine's room and I was left even more stunned by how much has changed. My little kindergartener who entered this room is now a preteen with strong opinions and sense of self. Over five years, she transitioned from pastels and butterflies to bright colors and softball trophies. We have cried together in this room as she experienced the reality of mean girls for the first time. We had our first conversations about her interest in boys and what it means to be growing up. She laughed at my dance moves but joined in with me anyway. I walked into this room every night before I went to bed and kissed her cheek as she slept and whispered I loved her so much.
Finally, in my room, I thought about the nights I would lie awake in my bed worrying about my kids and whether or not I was making the right decisions for them. I thought about the thunderstorms and how I really didn't mind when the kids ran through the door and wanted to snuggle up on either side of me all night long. I remembered how I always felt safe in the middle of night, even though I was alone. I reflected on the list of life goals I would sit and make while propped up on a pillow and how I still have a lot left to do!
I know you are a house, an inanimate object . . . you are made of bricks and wood and drywall and other stuff that I don't know enough about construction to understand. But, my emotional connection to you is real. So thank you for indulging me in one more walk through your spaces today. You are in the hands of new owners now. I heard they were moving their stuff in tonight. I hope that already, right now, they are starting to catalog the first of many memories that you will provide.
The kids and I are moving to our own new place in a couple of weeks. It's the right move for our family. I know we will make more wonderful memories there and new relationships will be forged. The house is lovely, and over time I am confident it will feel like home. Life is about change and we will embrace it. Thank you for helping us grow and thrive and for preparing us for what this new adventure will bring.