It smelled so new. The freshly painted walls were bare, a blank canvas for what would someday be covered with family photos, inspirational quotes, bulletin boards littered with reminders and doctor appointments. It was 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms of possibility to be filled with memories, laughter and a hell of a lot of tears. I already knew where every piece of furniture would go, where my Christmas tree would reside year after year and which bedroom belonged to which child. It would become home ….
Today we will say goodbye to the last 13 years. Oh if only these walls could talk, the stories they could tell. So much has happened in this house, so many different chapters of my life have been written here. When we put the house on the market one of the comments we received was that the “house had been well lived in.” Now, in realtors terms that means there needs to be some updating, maybe replace the carpet or a fresh coat of paint would be nice … to me it was the biggest compliment I could have ever received. Years of decorating, moving furniture around to find its perfect spot and the never-ending quest of finding the perfect lamp to have friends compliment on could never compare to being told you had actually lived in your house. I wanted so badly to reply with “oh if you only knew.”
The house sold quickly, maybe a little too fast. There wasn’t a lot of time to soak up what all had gathered under that roof. My children grew up in this house; I brought Alex home from the hospital here, my very favorite picture of Caroline was captured on a red wall, Nathan learned how to drive on our street and it was where Elizabeth took her first and only step. There were relationships that failed, friendships found and lost, a fight that I thought I would never recover from, a last first kiss. I painted those walls a lot; somehow I thought that I could cover up the past with a different color. There was a lot of hurt in this house, there were times I wanted to run away and never come back. But this was home and somehow the echos of a child’s laugh, memories of late night hot cocoa and the idea that if I moved around some furniture and painted a few walls meant I could start over and kept bringing me back.
Kids grow up and houses get smaller, did you know that?! There were times I felt we were living in a box. 3 kids sharing one bathroom, a wheelchair that was just a little too big to make the corners from room to room and the constant bumping into one another gave way to a lot of conversations about moving. “Be patient” my dad would say. He would tell me he knew we needed more room, he knew the house was too small for us. “But be patient, Pam.” I seriously wanted to remind him whose daughter I was every time he said that to me! Patience is not a virtue that runs in certain members of our family, well at least 2 of us anyway! The kids became restless and would talk about needing bigger rooms, their own bathrooms and a little space of their own. I will shamelessly admit that I would even put my children up to voicing their opinions about needing more space during family meals, I don’t think my dad bought it! Up went another coat of paint, another color in hopes that patience would present itself just a little while longer.
When Mark and I got married it was my house that we decided to live in. We knew it would not be forever and gave ourselves a year. We added another child to share the one bathroom between all the kids, bought bunk beds and told the boys it would be fun … please do not ask the boys to share the definition of “fun” that we sold them on! So now we had 2 adults, 4 kids, 2 BIG dogs, a cat and a wheelchair in a 2100 square foot house and we knew we would never make it a year. Mark and I would spend our weekends house hunting, meeting with builders and architects in hopes that we could find our perfect house that would meet the challenges of a blended family and Elizabeth. We quickly realized that we were going to have to get really creative and it was not going to be easy to find even a not so perfect house. Every Sunday was spent combing through Open Houses, sometimes not even getting out of the car and just driving right on by! The 10:00 news was replaced with websites of houses for sale and the constant text message with a link that led to yet another disappointment. I had just about given up when Mark stumbled upon a house that might just work. We had driven down this street several times, even looked at the house next door so how we missed this one is a mystery. I opened the front door and knew before my foot even hit the beautiful hardwood floors. It had 2 real bedrooms on the first floor, 4 bedrooms upstairs. Everyone would have their very own bathroom and plenty of room to move around without bumping into one another. The boys would have their own space, Caroline would not have to share a bathroom with her brothers and I could send everyone upstairs to what we have now named the “rec room” at any given time! The ceilings were high, the colors were exactly what I would have chosen, the kitchen was open and the thoughts of entertaining came easy in this house; plus it was going to look amazing in Christmas lights! It was that blank canvas I needed to start over in.
So most people my age would never think of asking their parents if it was okay to buy a new house; most people don’t have parents like mine! So as much as this blog is about taking a family of 5 to a family of 8 and how much house is really needed to accommodate the needs of a blended family it is more about my dad and the house he bought me. The relationship I have with my parents is well documented, WELL documented. I have touched briefly and somewhat discreetly about the need my father has to take care of my family, yes even at my age. I used to hide the fact that my dad still gives me gas money or checks my tires. I wondered what people would think … mostly that I couldn’t take care of myself, which by the way I can! But I quickly realized that it had nothing to do with the fact that I couldn’t support myself or that Mark would not be able to provide for our family. No, it was about a dad who truly believed he was put here to take care of his family until he was no longer here to do so. All those years of practice, the sacrifices he made was all part of his plan and the future I would have. So when I called and said I found the house I wanted he didn’t get quite as excited as I thought he would. He quietly responded with a let’s talk later about this. Later???? (I didn’t say that to him, but I said it very loudly in my head!) Here’s what I have come to respect (not understand but respect) about my dad. He does nothing on a whim. Everything must be thought about, talked out and backed up with some pretty damn good reasons why this would be a good decision. I mean really, this is something I struggle with because as we all know by now I am just not good with that patience thing! So I went to work and wrote everything down … a list of pros and cons, outweighing the good and bad, piecing together how this would work and just exactly how and why I was convinced this was the house. I sent off my novel of an email to my dad and (patiently .. HA!!!) waited for him to respond.
So as I walk through this old house one last time, moving from room to room listening to these walls and the stories they have collected over the last 13 years taking the memories I want to remember and saying goodbye to the ones that need to stay I keep telling myself it’s just a house, Pam. It’s a house that is too small, well lived in and now belongs to someone else. But it’s just so much more than that; it’s the house my dad gave me. I have no idea who bought our house, who will live in it or what will come of it but what I do know is that someday I will drive by and remember the chapters of my life that were written there. I will remember sitting with my dad at the title company so incredibly proud of this little house and what it would become. I will be forever thankful for the patience my dad told me to have as he once again quietly worked his ways so that he could help us begin a new chapter in our life.
It’s true what they say … home really is where the heart is and there will always be a piece of my heart in this old house.