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Ready to Leave This Place, Not Ready to Leave This House

When I was about ten years old I watched a house get taken apart and put on wheels.

I watched this from my grandparent’s driveway. It was a historical home that for some reason someone decided to take apart and move. It was in a small Montana town, and it seemed every resident gathered to watch the big green house get picked up and moved. 

I’ve frequently thought of that moment recently. Sometimes I wonder if I dreamed it, but my grandma reassures me that it did happen. So I ask myself often: can’t I just pick up my house in Tennessee and move it to Washington?

Our house is officially on the market.

When my realtor sent me the link to the online listing, it was an unexpected gut punch. For months we’ve been preparing for this move; this wasn’t an unforeseen hurry-up-and-PCS kind of move. We are ETS’ing and going to a location of our choice with exciting careers and opportunities ahead of us. I spent weeks purging, deep cleaning, and packing personal items to get it ready for staging. I was committed to having the cleanest, shiniest house possible for our photos.

Then I saw that beautiful photo of a bare, shiny kitchen. There’s nothing on the counters so that potential buyers can envision what they would do with the space to make it their own. But I looked at it and saw a spontaneous dance party with my husband and two-year-old daughter; she grabbed our hands, we spun in circles, and we all sang along to Taylor Swift.

The first time we all danced together like this was initiated by my daughter.

My husband and I were dancing to dinner music while cooking. She ran up to us with her arms stretched out asking, “Daddy hand? Mommy hand?” and we each held on to her so the three of us could swing and spin together.  “Hug,” she’d say when we would stop spinning. And the three of us embraced in the middle of that kitchen floor.

The picture of the entryway is eye-catching with its bare walls, wainscoting, and long hallway.

entryway of our house

A new family can envision decorating it with a gallery wall of their family photos. But this long hallway is where I watched my seven-month-old chase after our dog and cat as she learned to crawl faster. She and I spent a lot of time in this hallway practicing her crawling. It was just the two of when she first started pulling herself across those hardwood floors. 

Sometimes I think about the moment when my husband came home with the dreadful news of his impending deployment. I was five months pregnant, and he could barely look at me. We stood in the stairwell where I told him I could tell something was wrong and to just come out and tell me. With tears in his eyes, he stood a few steps up from me and announced he’d be leaving around the same time I was due to give birth.

There were so many moments and memories in this entryway and this entire house.

When he left it felt like I was part of a whole new family in this house. He only spent three weeks with us before he left, so for the next nine months, my daughter and I grew together in this home. Before he left we had a photoshoot in her nursery we set up in our master bedroom. There’s a sitting area in our bedroom that is staged with a tall mirror and fashionable chair, but it still has the mauve-colored accent wall we painted when I was pregnant. Our daughter slept in this space until my husband got home from deployment.

I remember sliding into the rocking chair in the corner where I’d hold and feed her at all hours of the night, brutally exhausted but soaking in every precious mom and baby second. I hung up the newborn photos of her with her dad so I could point him out to her, following the sage advice of moms who’ve walked the deployment path before me.

I gleefully remember her first belly-aching giggle. A friend from a nearby post visited us during deployment, and she made funny faces at my daughter after bath time. She was wrapped up in a towel while we stood in the hallway upstairs laughing so hard it felt like it could make the whole world smile.

When my husband got home from deployment, our daughter was just shy of ten months and ready to walk. I was hoping she wouldn’t take those first steps until he got home so he could experience a milestone with me in person. She took her first steps two weeks later and never stopped. Soon we installed gates at the stairs and baby-proofed all the cabinets as our curious toddler could finally explore every inch of her house on her own.

For four years we have been waiting for the moment when we are free to leave this duty station.

It was our top choice of all the options due to its proximity to a bigger city, international airport, and my husband’s career goals. When people would ask how I liked it here, I’d always say “happy enough.” I wanted to be back on the west coast with my family and lifelong friends. But this whole time I was creating memories with my own little family in a house we built.

We knew it wouldn’t be our forever home. We would be here for just four years before it was time to head back west. So with mixed emotions we wait for an offer on our home to pass it on to the next family. We hope that they will have as much love and fun inside these walls that we did. We took care of this house and it took really good care of us.

While outsiders try to reassure me with the comfort of making new memories in our next house, I’m going to sit with these ones right now and be grateful for all the laughter and love that permeated these walls.

Goodbye house. Thank you – for all of it.

 

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