By Robin Shainberg
“Oh wow, you’re selling your house. Don’t worry, it will go in one day!” Everyone said the same thing.
I knewit would happen <someday>, but someday is now next week. We have been fortunate to live in the same house, on the same street, in the same town for almost 25 years. It’s a long time. I know families who move often; we did too, three times in the first five years of our marriage — rental house to condo to rental apartment — until we bought our “starter home” on Midland Avenue in January 1998. We finally “finished” it today, one week before it goes on the market. By finished, I mean we fixed and painted everything which needed to be fixed or painted anyway, and put in the plants we meant to put in last spring, and got a new front door that didn’t stick, and connected the sump pump according to the new town code, and, and, and…
But really, we’re not selling our <house>, we are selling our <home>. People use those words interchangeably, but they are not the same. Not to me. Not this week.
Our house was built in 1923 so it’s old, but the inside is new. I am married to a talented residential architect, which means he changes things, a lot. We did three separate major renovations in 15 years. He had vision, so I had to have patience. We did one renovation only to tear it down a few years later and re-renovate. Years after adding on to our kitchen, said architect wanted to change the floor tile, which also meant a change of countertops. Then the cabinets needed to be repainted, and new hardware installed, and then a new light fixture would look better and, and, and… Don’t get me started on re-doing the hardwood floors.
These are the things you do for love. Not for love of the architect husband, but for love of the <home>, our precious financial investment which holds our precious people and our memories. Next week we will be asking other people to eat breakfast in our sunny kitchen, to sit outside on our front porch, to play catch in our white picket fenced-in yard. We have had five beloved family dogs (Casper, Boo, Leo, and now Micah and Ozzie) who sat on the front lawn and watched and waited for the kids to come home. They also barked at every other single person who passed by on the sidewalk.
One day soon someone will walk through the front door, and maybe bring their new baby home to a bedroom where I stenciled circus animals on the walls a long time ago. There was a crib and a changing table and Dr. Seuss board books. Then the crib got carried out and bunkbeds came in – and so many Legos. One day the bunkbeds were replaced with a double bed and golf shirts and J. Crew clothes on the floor. Our baby’s high school graduation photo and college diploma now hang on the wall; the colorful lions and tigers sleep under several coats of paint.
When I sit on the wrap-around front porch, I remember feeding that baby, watching helplessly as his toddler brother dug up our newly planted flowers with his Tonka bulldozers. He served time-outs on the porch steps. In the dining room, years later, that former toddler opened a fat envelope, and read aloud his chosen college acceptance letter, laughing through tears. The walls and shelves in his bedroom now groan with the weight of photos, trophies, and medals, recognition of years of athletic devotion and success. I am not ready to take them down.
I don’t really like to cook, but I like being in the kitchen. Everyone is always looking for food and they have to talk to me to get it. When they were young, I served them snack bowlfuls of random healthy and not-so healthy treats, which kept their hunger at bay before dinner. (Pro-parenting tip: kids will eat anything while watching TV, including vegetables if you cut them up.) They still ask for them when they are home; watching 20-somethings eat Goldfish crackers in our family room is a rare treat. On the doorframe near the pantry is a growth chart, where we measured the boys’ and their cousins’ heights for years. It’s proof I was once taller than all of them. I guess we must paint over it, but not today.
Almost 23 years ago I was in the kitchen putting away groceries, talking to my mom on the phone. She was in the hospital battling cancer, and just as I was putting the cereal boxes in the pantry, she said the doctors told her she had just three weeks to live. I leaned against that same doorframe, and I cried. Four weeks later, I spent night after night in the basement, crying for hours because her doctors were right.
As I type this at our kitchen table, I look out at the backyard. My mind clearly sees the big plastic trucks, the wooden swing set, and the trampoline, which all came and went. (It took <forever> to get the grass to grow back once we removed the trampoline.) I see kids’ birthday parties and playdates and snowball fights and hear little boys screaming and dogs barking. Later, there were bigger boys (and girls) laughing at high school graduation celebrations. I had a bat mitzvah service there a few springs ago, with a tent to block the bright sun from our guests and the mimosa bar. My family sat proud and tall in the front row, and Leo was happy to be included among our family and friends.
The backyard sits now, green, and quiet. Leaves and snow will fall again in a few months, but we won’t be here. Today, though, the new plants look good, and the trees are flowering. I love the string lights we put up during quarantine. We can’t use them in the new house as we have a shared backyard. Do I leave them here?
<The new house>.
We are moving locally, like 10-15 minutes away. I can shop at the same grocery stores and pick our kids up at the same train station when they come from their city apartments. They won’t be coming <home> though; they will be coming to the <new house>. We will be living there with the dogs, and all the things I couldn’t throw out during the ruthless decluttering/packing process.
There will be a new couch and coffee table. Our super comfy sectional sofa in the playroom-turned-family room will not move with us. The not-so-comfy couch in our living room won’t come either. There will be an island in the kitchen with new stools, so farewell to our kitchen table. (And hearing “you’re in my seat.”)
Things will be different. Leaves and snow will fall, but I won’t have to rake or shovel. The kids are as tall as they’re going to get. They can drive a car and go get their own food. We can still eat dinner together when they’re home. Maybe I will like cooking better there. Probably not.