Who’s Going To Love The Walls Like We Do?

My parents still live in the house I grew up in.  I never knew moving boxes or saying goodbye to beloved maple trees in the backyard or leaving a house that held my family.  As a kid, I envied my friends who got to move to new houses– they got to hang their posters of Ralph Macchio on new walls and learn new shortcuts to Crestline park where under-aged drinking and going to second base were de rigueur.

I’ve had dozens of addresses over the past two decades.  Crappy college apartments, a group house in Dupont Circle, and the dusty studio apartment I rented when I finally got my first real job.  I’m the person who still points out her old apartments no matter how many times we drive by them and no matter that everyone in the car already knows that mommy used to live up on the third floor where that planter with begonias is now.

Today most of my family’s worldly possessions are packed up and we’re staring down a moving day, I’m preparing to say goodbye to my first real home with my family.  The goodbye is happening in pieces.   This afternoon we sold the chair I nursed both of my kids in.  Green toile.  Now it belongs to another family who is expecting their first baby in October.  They get to rock through those blinding first weeks in my their new chair.

This chair? No longer ours.

This chair? No longer ours.

We’ve rented this house to a group of computer programmers who seem responsible, erudite and not likely to host epic keggers.  In one week a stranger will set up his personal effects in the room where my two children were conceived and he’ll put his own sweet treats in the freezer.  Our names may be on the deed, but it’s not our house.  Not really.

I’ve done my damnedest to declutter even though it makes my sentimental old heart seize with grief to part with any piece of myself or my children.  The downside of having a killer memory is that I use it to justify holding on to every magnet (I bought that on my first business trip away from Sadie), art project (This was the first time Simon used tempera paints), and receipt (The first skirt I bought after the baby weight was gone!) I’ve ever held on to.

All the important stuff is coming with me: the kids, my new Kate Spade purse, the comfy mattress.  But we are still leaving this place, this nest from which we grew from two to four.  And I am struck that I don’t know how to do this; by how bizarre it feels to be up late sniffling softly because we can’t take our garage wall with us– the wall we make people sign when they come to our house.  Who’s going to appreciate Jimmy Carranne’s off-color scribble about jizz like my family does?

No one.  That’s who.

And that’s the point.  The moments we had in this house were ours and they come with us, if only in our hearts and memories.  I can only hope that our friends will come with us to the new place, write bawdy messages on the new walls and help me fall in love there.  I can only hope I’ve made the space by saying goodbye here so I can say hello there.

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44 thoughts on “Who’s Going To Love The Walls Like We Do?

  1. I am up early and crying my eyes out after reading your post! You summed up the experience so perfectly! I am so excited to hear about all the new ways you make your new house a home….the place Sadie and Simon will recognize as “the house I grew up in”. Good luck Christie! Hugs!

  2. so hard closing a door to open another one. but it’s going to be great and you will be so happy and have new memories and attachments. and lucky for you, you’ve got that steel trap of a brain to remember where you all started. letting go isn’t easy, but once you do, you won’t look back. much.. 🙂

  3. As a daughter of a Navy contractor, Soldier, wife of a Soldier, and now expat living out of the US, I’ve had my share of moves. Your words capture the emotions perfectly, and were a trip down my almost-55-year-old brain’s emotions.

    I wish you and your family much love in your new home!

  4. You have made the space, and if you haven’t, you will – because the people you love most in the world are coming with you. But I understand wanting the new ones to love the walls the way you did. It’st kind of like my feeling very attached to the new owners of my house using my appliance guy.

  5. Congratulations on the move. I can relate to this one very much, and I was emotional leaving ours too. I wanted to rip up the kitchen tile where my daughter took her first steps. Transplant her first nursery into the new space. Sigh…I took a lot of pictures.

  6. Beautiful post. I think a year from now you’ll have so many great new memories from the new place, the old one will recede into a tender place where you don’t live anymore. And your friends will be happy to sign a new wall!

  7. You know that I obviously feel every word of this. In the weeks before we moved out of our apartment, I did the exact same thing. I couldn’t bear the thought of getting rid of the couch where we sat every night as we were first getting to know each other. Or leaving the floors that I scratched while I was trying to unpack wedding gifts when we first got back home after our honeymoon. It’s so hard to leave all of those memories behind, but new and good memories will swoop in to help soften the blow. Trust me on this. I’m living it.

  8. I’m so sorry, pumpkin. I have no love like this but my grandparents’ houses. I’ve moved at least 28 times in my life, and it feels like hard work and hope and confusion. I’ve never felt loss like yours, so I feel sad for you. Maybe I’ll write something dorky on your garage wall. Then I’ll be attached to a place. Yours.

  9. We moved one month ago. Like your family, we left the home I brought my babies home too. It was so much more difficult than I ever imagined it would be. We were driving home from a road trip two weeks ago and I was thinking about how I couldn’t wait to be home and in my very own living room and then I realized that the home and the living room I was picturing were the ones in our old house. It takes a long time for a house to become Home and we aren’t there yet. But hopefully someday…

  10. Each of my kids were born in different places and we’ve moved out of both of those apartments with zero fanfare. Am I a horrible mother? Are they going to hate me for that?

  11. I can’t imagine living in the same house for my whole childhood – crazy!!! I love it. Anna has lived in four homes in her short nine years. We’ll probably move four more times before she graduates because I’m not very good at sitting still…Is it a tiny bit less painful knowing the house is still yours? Regardless, moving will forever suck, and I’m sorry you’re having to deal with all the emotion that’s coming with it. XO

  12. The house we are in now is our very first, after years of apartments that were the norm since my married life. But it’s a little easier for me because the house was built in 1977, merely a year before an early childhood home, so the construction is the same and many elements are pretty familiar. In fact, before we started searching, I had powerfully vivid dreams of that childhood neighborhood, and I couldn’t make sense of them until we arrived to the house.

    My parents downsized about a half dozen years ago, however, so I am still getting used to their house, period.

      • Through housesitting and taking care of their cat (my daughter especially loves that) at various times, I am getting used to their smaller house a little better.

        My wife… well, she had an experience more like yours, but then my in-laws had an electrical fire (I think about when my folks moved). They still have a garage structure but the old house had to be razed and a new house built from scratch in the same spot.

  13. I can’t even think about moving. The hubs & I have each lived here longer than anywhere. He gets itchy to move, but not me. I just get itchy to redecorate. I might need to be sedated to leave my neighbors.

    You’re doing great & the new place will be home soon enough. And you can buy all new snacks.

  14. So, I just have to say that I took a mind break at work today and read this and completely enjoyed it. I like people who are a little loopy, You totally used the word jizz. You are an educated professional tired mom who eloquently used the word, I laughed out loud at my desk, and connected with the heartfelt meaning of the piece. BEST wishes as you build your new nest!

  15. Thank you for this post — My parents are currently selling my childhood home in Boston and it’s truly difficult being so far away as they pack it up. Those last lines you wrote really stuck with me though — the moments will come with us (but damnnnn I wish I could take our in ground pool, too).

  16. My mother lived in one house from the time she married until 1991, and when she moved, she just dumped everything from the old house in boxes and brought it to the new house without sorting. Now that she is in a care home and gradually moving away from us to different mind spaces, we are in the often painful process of sorting through all those boxes and cupboards. The location doesn’t matter. The memories do.

  17. I can’t wait to be that attached to a home one day. As a rootless military brat, I have no idea what it’s like. Maybe that’s why I’m so excited for my love to get here – so we can start on our way to exactly that. Love this piece. So poignant.

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