Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A House is Not a Home

A little over a year ago, we decided to sell our house. That first moment, when we started to take some of the art off the walls, when we started to put all our books in boxes, and when we started to anticipate moving our family, was when our house stopped being our home.

It’s weird, that first showing, when you realize someone is going to walk into your house, the place where you raised your babies, where you make late breakfast on Sundays, where you walk around naked after a shower, and consider whether they want it for their own. They are going to look at your nursery, with all the animals inexpertly hand-painted on the walls and consider what color they will paint over it. The room you sat and rocked a child in, night after night, for years, is suddenly going to be childless. There will be no nightlight softly illuminating its walls, no music box adding birdsong and falling water to the darkness. I have spent more time in that room than any other, soothing, changing, comforting, loving, reading, and playing with my children. I taught my children that their bedrooms were safe havens, places of shelter from storms, nightmares, and the world outside. My son, with his animals smiling down on him, my daughter, with her princesses watching over her will now have to get used to new configurations of light on their walls, new sounds of night falling outside their windows, and a new path to the bathroom.

Before the endless packing started and the walls started to close in due to all the boxes, I could walk around my house in a blindfold and never bump into a wall. I knew where the furniture was placed, which step was last before the floor, how wide the bathroom door was left open all by sense of touch. I always thought that in case of emergency, it would be effortless to grab what I needed and get out because it was placed in the same spot night after night. How long will it take me to find my way in my new home? How long before I understand its configuration without stubbed toes and muffled curses? When I won’t need to turn on a light to wander downstairs for a late-night drink out of the fridge?

In a home, everything has a place. Your keys go here, your shoes go there. This shelf holds boxes of pasta, that shelf holds the olive oil. You know where to find a flashlight when the power goes out, and how far to turn on the hose when the sun comes out. Right now, I feel like I am living in a really crappy hotel. It has only the most rudimentary supplies, nothing has a place, and everything feels temporary.

While I will miss the quiet stability of this house, I am quite looking forward to the adventure of the new one. The first trip to Target will be epic. After years of bemoaning the lack of counter space, the closeness of quarters, it will be nice to have a little more elbow room. I already live so much of my life in the new town that the move will be more of a homecoming than a farewell.

For seven of the eight years in this home, my job has been my kids. So when we pull into the new one, with real oak floors instead of laminate, with a stone fa├žade instead of siding, with real wood-burning fireplaces instead of push-button gas ones, with windows and skylights and porches galore, I hope my husband feels proud of what he has accomplished for his family. I hope he surveys his expanded little kingdom and is happy. I know I will be. That house, with its unknown corners and undiscovered delights, is going to be our new home.

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