On Friday, we closed on our new house. I can tell you, quite honestly, that I am overjoyed. I am thrilled with the prospects of painting and starting with a clean slate and doing whatever I want to a much bigger house in a much safer neighborhood. I am over the moon. I am elated.
I am crying as I write this.
We bought our first house when our oldest son was three-months-old. For the longest time, we didn’t have curtains because I couldn’t decide on what I wanted -- and shortly after I did break down and buy curtains, I changed my mind and bought new ones anyway. It was a small house, one that we outgrew rather quickly -- but it was our first house. It was our house.
It was the house where I fell in love with my sons -- and fell in love with being a mom.
Our older son took his first steps in the middle of our not-so-big living room. Thanks to his severe texture issues, he threw up his first strawberry (of a few) on our dining room floor (which, at the time, was home to carpet; ew). He bathed in the deep, porcelain sink, eventually moved to the bathtub and, wouldn’t you know it, now he takes showers -- by himself -- in the remodeled bathroom that my husband did with his own two hands. Well, his grandfather’s hands helped, too.
Our younger son was, ahem, conceived here. I suffered through bed rest on the couch with a never-not-moving almost-two-year-old. I went into labor on that same couch -- though we don’t own that couch anymore. We left for the hospital with one son and came home with two; we became a family of four in this house. I became a mom of two sons.
I survived postpartum depression in the hollows of this house. I clung to my husband, to the walls, to the bed and to my precious baby boys. Eventually I made my way out of that darkness and, once again, fell in love with being a mom.
I played trains on the floor for endless hours. I danced to songs from Blue’s Clues and The Freshbeat Band and, uh, Katy Perry. I beat my kids at Mario Kart -- until they started beating me. I chased them down the hall, naked butts and giggles. I tucked them in, and tucked them in, and tucked them in, and tucked them in. And in and in and in. All on the same night. And after they were asleep, I squeaked open the door to check on them, just to make sure they were breathing.
I, under the guise of Santa Claus and with the help of my husband, gave them the surprise of their young lives. I watched them smash cakes that I slaved over so that they would have “healthy” first birthday cakes. I learned to cook things that they would love -- and things that they would hate -- in the small kitchen. I helped, along with the boys, build a deck where we made so many more memories: blowing bubbles, throwing footballs, playing cars, shoveling snow.
I laughed and cried and yelled and whispered and became the mom I am today within the walls of this first house.
And now it’s time to say goodbye.
I also wonder, of course, if that means I get to say goodbye to the parts of this mom that I don’t like. Do I get to leave behind the one that loses her patience on Friday afternoons because she’s just trying to make deadline -- and thus yells? Do I get to leave behind the memories of the sleepless nights with clingy newborns? Do I get to leave behind the anxious new mom who let her past and self-loathing trick her into not breastfeeding her oldest son? Or does she follow me to the new house like the dust on nick-knacks already packed in boxes? Is there room for her at the new house? Will she take up too much space? I hope not. We have a finished basement; maybe she can hang out down there, in a corner or something.
I thought it would be a bit easier. I’ve been fed up with the lack of space and the drug-dealing, mufflerless, cussing neighbors and the feral cats pooping in my rose garden and the lack of parking and the mud and on and on and on for years. I thought I would run, skip and jump to the new house. And I did.
But there’s a part of me that looks back over my shoulder and whispers, “Thank you. Thank you for covering our heads and keeping us warm and dry over the years. Thank you for giving us a safe place, if only within our own walls, to learn to love one another. Thank you for allowing us to stretch out our legs and find our own wings within your walls. Thank you for being patient with me when I stomped my feet or slammed a door. Thank you for holding us tight while I figured out how to be a mom.”
Our new house will hold many more memories over the years, though not some of the firsts that won’t ever happen again. No first steps or first foods or first vomits of first foods. And my mothering will change there as well. At some point I will change from the mother of school-aged children into the mother of tweens and then teens and then... that house may become the house where I stand at the door, watching the car drive away from the house as my youngest flies the coop. Perhaps that’s why it’s so hard to leave this house. Choosing to leave is easier than being left behind, I guess.
I'm sure I'm not the only mom who has stood and looked back into an empty house with a bit of a heavy heart. Have you had a similar experience?
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