One year ago today, TJ had the day off of work. I had just finished hanging up our stockings; the kids were down for a nap, and we decided to watch a movie. And that’s when we got the news. After months of waiting, the sale on our townhouse had been approved. Tears of joy flew readily. It had happened!
The only catch was that we had 14 days to close. And find a new place. And move. All while celebrating Christmas with three little kids. It was a tall order.
During those two weeks, our neighbor’s pipe burst in their kitchen. This seeped into our kitchen, flooding one entire side of our house — the dining room, kitchen, and powder room. The fire department came and informed us of the leak around 5pm. By midnight, all of our cabinetry, flooring, and appliances had been removed. In their place, we had giant walls of plastic wrap and way too many industrial sized fans. And of course nails lying around, and holes in our wall so big that mice running through could have been the least of our concerns.
And then the first Polar Vortex hit and took with it our electricity. All five of us cuddled in our bed for hours trying to stay warm. The girls cried when their feet touched the ground because it was so cold. We made a mad dash with all of the kids and the cat and the dog to go hide out in the warmth of my parent’s house. And then the electricity went back on.
We went back inside and got the temperature up above 10 degrees and out went the electricity again. Eventually we all got packed up in my van, and TJ spent almost an hour outside trying to get his small car out of our snowed in multi-family driveway. We drove to the exit of our subdivision and saw the electricity go back on. We decided to still head out, not knowing how long our power would stay on. But two minutes on the main roads proved that we were not going to make it anywhere. So we headed back.
And then a couple of days later, Goosie got sick and vomited in her car seat on the way home from driving Magoo to school. I went inside to fill up the tub to clean her off. But no water came out. Apparently dates got mixed up when we called to take the water service out of our name. We would spend the last couple of days there without water.
And then the day came and we were out.
I still get sad thinking sometimes about how sour the whole thing turned out. About how I never even wanted to see our house one last time because while those last weeks were bad they weren’t ridiculously out of sort with the rest of the experience we had there.
I remember when we bought the house, we would go every week to watch the progress on its construction. We have hundred of pictures of the bones of that house. And we sold it seven years later for next to nothing to a couple who were planning on renting it out for next to nothing. That’s the way that whole subdivision went. When we left, there was nothing much to mourn.
But sad as I get about not missing my first house, nothing compares to the elation I still have of being out of there.
People probably laugh when they hear me gush about my new home. It’s a rental. It’s decently sized but by absolutely no means large. It’s in a great location but definitely not my ideal neighborhood.
But it’s home.
For the last four years we had been in our old house, it never felt like home. There was the constant fear of rodents and the ever changing cast of neighbors. There were the grotesque occurrences (the man who had died in his condo and no one found his body for many months.) There was the drunk driver who went through the neighborhood ramming into any car or building he could find. There was the 30 minute commute to almost everywhere.
But more than anything, there was the feeling of stagnation.
We weren’t where we wanted to be. We couldn’t move forward. We were stuck.
Now I still wake up some days and want to lie on my floor and just hug it. I now have a comfortable home to raise my girls in. They don’t spend their entire lives in our car. And they have a mom who doesn’t feel like she has to hide in a corner or escape with them to hotels to avoid the rodent infestations.
Life isn’t perfect now. This year hasn’t been perfect. TJ lost his job six days after we moved. He has spent the last month very ill. And we have the normal stresses that any family does.
But we are home.
And despite all of that, I don’t totally regret the experience. Prior to those years, I never understood just how important a comfortable, safe home is. Without it, it’s hard to move forward at all. It’s hard to flourish. It’s seemingly impossible to find peace.
It also reminds me now of my ability to make a difference. If I feel overwhelmed, I think back to those days, and I know that I can handle more than I think I can. I just have to take one step at a time. I don’t have to do everything. I just have to do something.
And it taught me that I can take a risk. Despite the nightmare of our existence there, selling our home was still a risk. For months, I would worry that we would not be able to find a new place. But we landed on our feet.
Life isn’t perfect now, but I can find my peace. I can curl up on the couch at the end of the day with my remote control and my knitting, and I can relax.
I have a place to come home to and to dream from. A place to nurture my babies and love my husband.
It has been a long year, but it has been a good year I still get tears in my eyes when I think of how much better our lives are because of that one move.
And I hope one day I will want to drive by again and remember when. Remember when my babies ran outside in the grass. Remember when the snow drifts came all the way up over our heads. Remember the sidewalk Magoo walked down on her way to the car on her first day of school.
That time isn’t now. Those memories are sweet, but for me, they aren’t tied to that place.
But it will be there, and I will be here, and maybe one day my heart will soften and I will think back fondly.