Adios 17 Harding Street
Two months shy of our 11-year mark, we walked out of our home today for the last time.
Tonight, as I now sit in the kitchen of my parents' house during our one-week transition to our third of three homes in the next eight days, (this is our "jingle" to the kids, who are now officially and visibly bummed: "Woo-hoo! Now we are at house #2! In a week, we'll be at house #3 in Costa Rica! How many people do you know who get to live in three different houses in just about a week?!" I'm not sure it's working....), Johel and I are reflecting on how crazy it is that in the matter of 40 minutes in a parking lot of a title company, you can sign a bunch of papers you don't even really understand, and you are suddenly no longer the owner of the only home you as a family have ever known...
While I am not sad about the house (it helps that we moved out over time and by the end it just seemed like a nicely-colored space, not the slightly cluttered, toy-strewn, project-filled home with a refrigerator full of the kid's drawings or Pearls Before Swine comic strips from
my dad), our kids are sad. And knowing our kids are sad makes me sad. Especially when I know that what is causing the sadness is something we are choosing to do. While they've known this was coming for a long time, the feelings that appear on the big day apparently don't heed to the previous warnings. And all that feeling even after we did everything in our power to prepare them:
-Creating excitement about what's to come
-Outlining the timeline of all the big life changes ahead
-Emphasizing that this home is amazing because of the memories here, all of which involve experiences or people, not the specific structure of the house itself
But it was not enough to prepare them for the moment when we were in those last few rushed minutes of checking to make sure everything was empty, windows were closed and all our belongings were out. For the moment when they were being hustled out of their only home knowing full well that they wouldn't be going back in. (Well, Yori might. She's told us that when she's older and finally moves out of our home - maybe around 30- she'll buy this home back. She's definitely my planner!)
While the final moments were sad, I think we truly made the best of the last evening and morning. Here are the highlights:
1. After getting 95% of the stuff (of which it felt like 75% was junk....seriously, where does this stuff come from?!?!), I convinced (read: demanded) everyone that we head out for dinner. Things were too clean at this point to cook. With no car and no bikes, walking was the only option, which prompted a fair amount of griping from Ollie (which then always prompts us to respond with "get used to it, my friend! We're hiking Cerro Chirripo - Costa Rica's highest peak - in November!"). Once we got the walk underway, however, it was delightful. We took our standard path and headed to a restaurant we hadn't been to in a long time. The weather was perfect, and we got to eat at the venue (haven't done that in months...I'd practically forgotten restaurants are places where you used to be able to actually sit down and have a meal - I like it!). The stroll home was also pleasant, as Leo begged me to carry him only 75% percent of the way home instead of right-from-the-get-go 10 feet out of the restaurant parking lot.
2. We had our last-ever dance party in our empty, unlit living room. The two-second back story on this is that dance parties are a pretty big deal in our family. We love them and have them often (unless you're Ollie, who usually loves them but is at that stage in life where he's not quite sure if it's cool to dance even though he knows he wants to...). Our playlist was hand-picked by the participants and started last night with "One More Time" off the Trolls soundtrack. Very fitting. It was awesome.
3. This high-intensity sweat fest (did I ever mention we didn't have A/C and the fans were packed? Yikes!) was followed by several rounds of house hide-and-seek. It would have been fun had I not always had to hide with the three-year-old. Seriously. He gives us way every time. And he skips 7 and 13-18 when it's our turn to count to 20 which throws everything off.
4. By this point, Johel had arrived home from work, and we all walked together from room to room recalling our favorite memory from each spot. The kids unanimously agreed that jumping in various modes on our bed was the highlight of our bedroom. Dance parties and family dinner-and-a-movie nights won out in the living room. Ollie surprised me by mentioning how he loved playing board games with me in the dining room while his siblings were napping (sniff!), and I recall Leo serving me "hot chocolate" he produced while showering with his bath toys. Yori, in the kitchen, just hugged the fridge ("So you'll miss food?" I'm confused.) I personally only felt sad in the art room, a space Johel isolated in our unfinished basement. This spot served as a boy-cave during Ollie's sleepovers, a spot for "girl time" during Yori's sleepovers, a remote workspace and virtual classroom, and most importantly, a room to store all our art supplies out of sight of any guests, as these materials, wherever they were in the house, tended to be strewn all over the place. Essentially, we wanted to avoid being judged. And we needed our dining room back.
5. We ended as we do every night, with the three kids and myself curled up in bed, this time me inventing a (crappy, anticlimactic) story about three baby Bower birds (kids' idea - we are fresh off watching weeks of the Planet Earth series). They hatched in their bower, decorated it til it was just perfect (not factual to the bird's offspring, actually, but it was relevant to homes, so it worked), and then their mom informed them it was time to move to a new one. They would be able decorate it until it was perfect: plastic forks and puffy hearts and all (again, a Planet Earth II reference). Thirty minutes later, they were sound sleep.
6. And this morning, as has happened literally every morning for the last seven years since our first kiddo moved out of our room, one by one they crept into Johel and my bed.
First Leo, who then falls back asleep, conveniently horizontally, leaving us about 2/3 of our mattress to split between the soon-to-be four of us. Then Yori, who is usually last, crawls in-between Johel and me. And lastly, Ollie, wedging sideways in a crack of space (Leo is still sleeping soundly on more than his share of the bed, unfazed and preventing any of us from falling back asleep). Sun shining, birds chirping. It was perfect.
Which brings us back to the last few minutes this morning as I did my final walk-through alone, just to make sure I was giving myself the chance to feel sad if need be or see something and remember something one last time. I ran into Ollie sitting on our landing just inside the front door. He'd sat there daily from probably age two on: first, to get assistance with putting his shoes on, then the dreaded phase where he insisted on getting them on himself (the period in child-rearing where you never get anywhere on time), then him learning how to tie his own big-kid shoes to finally him handling everything himself easy-peasy and heading out the door to do whatever.
-How are you feeling? I asked.
-Sad. He said, while smiling a smile that is meant to help him look "fine" while trying not to cry.
-It's okay to be sad, you know. Want to go look at your room one more time?
We headed upstairs, and as we stood there, I reminded him of the story about when we first remodeled that space when he was two. It was the only room in the house where we had carpet installed, and it was his new room. He was thrilled and had run in circles in his bare feet on the new floor and then laid down and rolled around, much like happy dog in grass. It was precious.
I gave him a minute to think anything he wanted to communicate with this space that was probably one of his favorite for his entire 9-year life. Then we headed downstairs, kissed the walls of the entry, walked out, and went to pass the keys to the new owners of our U.S. home.