I remember the moment we found our house. I was scouring the classifieds looking for ANY house that remotely fit our criteria. It was the height of the real estate market back in 2003. We’d lost two houses already in bidding wars. We sold our town home in 1 day and were moving in with Craig’s parents until we could find a place. We had our hearts set on the town where we grew up, but the situation was forcing us to look outside our ideal area. I wanted a street canopied by trees, but I could give that up. We wanted brick, it made my father-in-law happy, he was a brick layer earlier in life. But, we’d settle for siding. I didn’t want cookie-cutter, I wanted something with a soul. I had this fantasy of a large picture window where we could put our Christmas tree, but I guess the tree could just go in a corner. Of course we had a list of things like number of bedrooms and baths, etc. But, I was really searching for a feeling. A place I could envision our life with a family. So, no pressure.
As we started getting desperate all our need-to-haves started feeling like nice-to-haves. What would really be the difference anyhow, we only planned to live in this “starter” house for a couple years. Four max. By then we’d have a few kids, need more space, have more money and be on our way to a bigger house. Right? (Hilarious.) But just as we started writing off what we wanted, I saw an ad in the paper.
From the moment we pulled down the street in the town where we grew up, I was in love. The trees were massive. (Check.) The neighborhood was one of the oldest in town, a mix of houses from the 1800s all the way through the 1960s. Charming and chock full of character. (Check.) We walked up to the house as a man was placing a “For Sale by Owner” sign in the yard. It was a tiny red brick ranch. (Brick. Check.) And there was a massive picture window, I could imagine our aluminum tree there in all its kitschy glory. (Check.)
I remember walking in the front door, the windows were open and the sheer drapes were billowing in the breeze, the sun streaming across the newly refinished hardwood floors. We barely made it through the house we were so giddy. We raced to my in-law’s as fast as we could, it was only a mile drive (BONUS!), and we dragged my father-in-law back to see it. We needed a second opinion, what did we know about houses anyway. We couldn’t really pick a house based on just a feeling, could we? What about the foundation? The sump pump? The soffit and fascia? What even was a fascia? Within a few minutes we had his blessing and a deal and the sign was removed from the front lawn.
Then, in our new home, life happened. It happened both exactly as I’d imagined and not at all in the way I’d planned. There was joy, so much joy. There were raucous parties filled with music and cocktails and long quiet evenings filled with deep conversation…and cocktails. There were celebrations, so many celebrations (births, birthdays, holidays, super bowls, world series, bbqs, backyard camp outs). There were those Friday nights in the early years with our “Porch-light’s-on-all-are-welcome-for-beers-in-the-backyard” policy. And more recent Friday family nights with carryout and nowhere-to-be ease. There was also pain and sadness and loss. Crying alone and crying together. Hearts breaking and hearts mending. Breaking down and holding each other up. There were beautiful moments and ugly moments. There was drama and monotony. There was change and stability.
But more than anything, for the past 14 years, our home has been filled with love and laughter. Our family went from two to four in that house. Our kids spoke their first words and took their first steps there. They learned to ride their bikes on the sidewalk out front, and learned to play ball in the backyard. They learned important life lessons like never stop doing something because it’s “too hard” and how to make fart noises with your armpits. It was everything I’d dreamt back in 2003 that a life with a family might look like. And our sweet home was the backdrop to it all.
Every summer we relished in the large yard, and every winter we cursed the tight quarters. And, before we knew it we’d been there 14 years, in this “starter” home. We’d talked about moving, talked about adding on, but there was so much momentum in the day to day and so much inertia in the familiar. We never could quite make it happen. We got close to doing something a couple times, but we always got distracted or cold feet.
And just as we missed out on those other two homes 14 years ago only to get the exact home we were always meant to have. I can’t help feeling like we were never meant to get up the nerve to make a move until now. Our lives and our new home collided in just the right way at just the right moment. And, I have to believe that it was always meant to be this way. If we’d moved two years ago, we wouldn’t be able to do what our family needs from us now. And though we didn’t know that then, it all makes a bit more sense now.
It’s going to be hard to spend that last night in our sweet home, the only one we’ve ever known as a family. But at the end of the day, as long as I have my people with me, I know we could live anywhere and find the joy. And, like it does, life is continuing to happen. And we’ve already started creating memories at the new house, filling it with all the love and laughter we need to make it our home.
It was a good little house. And, I’m glad we stayed so long. I can’t imagine our lives having happened anywhere else. I hope the folks moving in can feel the love we’ve left behind.