7.06.2011

House, Sold. Heart, Heavy.

We signed our names, shook hands, congratulated each other and then, after a whirlwind 4 weeks of prepping and packing, storing and staging, it was done. Our house was sold.

Our house was sold.

A wave of exhaustion washed over me but it was quickly displaced by a rising tide of emotion. Our house was sold, to a nice young couple with a small daughter – exactly who we expected to sell our house to. They were excited, elated, relieved, and I couldn’t help but be taken back to the night that the young couple elated, excited and relieved that this house was now theirs, was us.

A little more than seven years ago, we were the young couple moving into this house. We were the young couple mere weeks away from beginning the task of populating the empty rooms with the pregnancy of our first daughter. We were the ones looking at each other in a slight state of shock and proclaiming to each other, The house is ours!

We’re not leaving our house because we no longer want it. Yes, we’re trading in our lifestyle, our city, our habits and priorities for something that we feel will now fit our family better, but it’s not because of the house. This house, our house, still feels right. The walls have been painted and the counters cleared for showings and sale, but as soon as I turn away from the quiet of uncluttered surfaces, I still know the house as ours. My children’s footfalls echo through the rooms and despite my best efforts at keeping hands and home free of grime, errant fingerprints reveal themselves on refrigerator doors and window panes.

And I am still tucking my children into their beds, in the only rooms they have known, and when I lay down at night it is still in our house, in our bed, in our room, the room my daughter was born in.

As I straightened the never-straight rug in front of our bed before a final showing yesterday, I saw my midwife kneeling on it, saw my sister sitting attentively behind her, saw my husband at the edge of the bed, saw my keening body as I brought my daughter into the world. This, our room, the world.

I’m ready to leave my life in Toronto, my job, my proximity to friends and family, but as I closed the door last night, exhausted, I was assaulted by the realization that I will also leave our house. We get to bring our things with us, the too-many books and clocks and chests and flotsam and jetsam of seven years of accumulated living, but I will be leaving behind this place. This place where we have laughed and fought and grieved and celebrated and watched and listened. This place where I gave birth to my first baby.

And how can I do this? How can I leave the only home my children have known; the hydrangea planted over soil rich with my first daughter’s buried placenta; the tree in the front yard, planted there after the birth of my second daughter; the divet in the wall of their bedroom, made by the repetitive motion of a rocking chair, heavy with the weight of mother and baby, gliding back into the same spot over and over and over.

How can I leave this house, already being emptied of belongings but still so full of our lives?

We have made our choice, we have signed our papers and we have so very much to look forward to. But even as I tell my children tales of what’s to come, I am already filing away tales of Where We Used To Live to tell later, when the limits of a child’s memory have been exceeded and appetite for personal fable realized. I’ll tell them stories of wobbly babies running down the hallway as though it were a racetrack, and older sisters convincing younger sisters to hide in dark and crowded closets. I’ll tell how one was born in the very bed we slept in and how one was supposed to be, but was always a monkey and had plans of her own.

***

I can’t sleep, my daughter told me last night, after everybody had left and the house was still. I keep thinking about the little girl.

What little girl? I asked as I smoothed her hair back from her face.
The little girl that’s going to sleep in my room.
Don’t worry, I assured her, she doesn’t sleep here until you’re all cozy in your new room. She won’t be here when you are.
Oh, that’s good, my daughter replied. Because you know my sister likes to crawl into bed with me, and there wouldn’t be room for another girl here too.

Having assuaged her concerns, I ventured a question. Will you let your sister sleep in your bed in the new house?
Of course, mum, said my eldest. She’s still my sister. We’re not leaving her here; we’re just leaving the room here.

I kissed her goodnight and walked out of her room, a room that she so willingly bestowed to a stranger, so long as she could still have her sister. I filed our exchange away, another tale to tell her later, and went downstairs to call our family with the good news.


***

20 comments:

  1. Aw...it's a brave thing you're doing. You are perfectly entitled to your tears and heavy heart. But before you know it there will be enough flotsam and jetsam in the new house to call it home. Adventures make life worth living, right?

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  2. Beautiful post, Karen. Shivers.

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  3. I still can't drive by our old house and its been almost two years. All my changes were there.

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  4. If it gives you space to write as beautifully as this more often, it will all be worth it. Lovely.

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  5. @mombshell - shelter, shelter, shelter...

    @rebecca - being sad always inspires me to write :)

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  6. This made me cry. I have been going through these exact same emotions, but have been unable to express them so beautifully as you have. We just left our family home of 14 years ... but I can tell you that from the other side, it's okay. The heart is much less heavy. I wish you luck on this next adventure and I can't wait to hear all about it!

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  7. It's an interesting contrast that I don't have the same heavy heart leaving our house. I wrote a post a few month's ago about my grandparent's place - how that always felt like home, how I want that for us. I mourn the sale of my grandparent's house more than ours. I hope that this move will find us home. Really home.

    And here's to new memories in your new place. Which is much too far away for all of our liking.

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  8. I was very, VERY sad about leaving my house 7 years ago, too... but that was a totally different situation, mine situation was an emotionally disastrous mess of foreclosure and divorce. I miss the house. But that was a lifetime ago and life is so much better now. That needed to happen!

    And how profound your daughter is!!

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  9. @Mandy if you can make it through that, I can certainly get through this :)

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  10. waaaah. Oh M just killed me.
    She will remember and she will always know she was born right there.
    hope you are back lots to visit.

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  11. You are killing me with the beautiful and wistful.

    SO sad you are leaving, but I hope it is everything you want, and the perfect thing for your girls who will, after all have each other - and you two. Lucky things.

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  12. Well first of all congratulations on the quick sale and the decision to move on to new and exciting things.
    Change is hard, but I'm sure it will all be worth it.
    Maybe now you can have that Kitchen you always dreamed of...

    p.s I think I saw you at Anthro the other day, was going to say hi, but by the time I realized it was you it was too late.

    oh and as usual- a beautiful post.
    Good luck with everything.

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  13. Beautiful post, Karen. What you're doing is so brave - such a roller coaster of emotions.... Hugs!

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  14. You made me tear up. I still miss our little house, the one we grew out of almost the moment we brought our baby home, the house in which we experienced so many firsts. The last house in which I saw my mother. It will always be the little house in which we made out first true home. I cried hard packing up 6 years later even though it was a long-past due, good move to a perfect-for-us new house.

    Your memories will always walk those halls. May you fill your new home with just as many; may the sun shine in.

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  15. @earnestgirl - and now you made *me* tear up. I have totally been thinking about how this is the house that my dad knew us in, and throughout the entire decision-making process, I have wished that I could talk to him. I have a feeling I know what he would have told me, but it makes me sad to know that this big change is just one more thing I can't share with him.

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  16. AnonymousJuly 14, 2011

    It is a brave thing you are doing, my friend - but no doubt the absolute right thing for you and your family. You are going to create so many new memories in your new home...and now you can create lots of wonderful ones from Mon - Fri during the DAY! Lucky, lucky you...(but for the record, I will miss seeing you almost every day! Things just won't be the same without you.)
    JuliePxo

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  17. My heart: bursting. :)

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  18. I'm so glad I found this post. My family and I are looking to move. We've only just started house hunting, and already I feel like I'm going to throw up whenever I think about it. The saddest thing is that we're not moving *to* anything.

    We're moving for the simple reason that we don't have enough room for these growing girls and all the stuff that comes with them.

    Both of my girls were born while we lived here and it's breaking my heart that we have to move out of our neighbourhood - we've decided to be grownups and buy a house, and could never afford it here. It seems like we've just started to put down roots here, and now we've got to transplant them.

    Thanks to you and your daughter for reminding me that all the most important things will be moving with me.

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  19. Selling a house is not easy. It can be tricky to ensure that the place looks good so that people would be interested in buying. And then there's the emotional attachment you have to the home you're selling. It's a hectic experience, and yet the best thing to do is to hope that you are happy with your new home.

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  20. This is a beautifully written entry. The title alone makes me feel sad. Moving is always a challenge, but sometimes it’s what we need to start a change in our lives. I’m glad you liked the new owners of your house and I hope they are taking good care of it.

    Scott Sauer

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