When my husband and I were first looking for our first house, we were dead set against townhouses. Every house looking the same, no real yards, no thank you. Then we found this magic townhouse on a dead end and changed our minds. Because while it looked like a townhouse from the outside and benefitted from all the amenities and outdoor maintenance of a community, inside the view out every window was only trees thanks to the forests that surrounded it on either side. We bought it and began our life together there as newlyweds eleven years ago almost to the day.
We loved that place. My office window was up against a flowering tree that made me feel like I was working in a tree house and, though our back patio was super tiny, it butted against a huge wooded hill that made it feel endless. I wrote the bulk of my books and plays in both locations, the inspiration of nature there in my own backyard.
So much of our first married years were spent watching the birds, chipmunks, squirrels, deer, coyotes, turkeys, foxes, bears and, our favorite, bunnies that would come hang out behind our house regularly. We named them… and named our furniture for them in turn. (There is a set of chairs we still call “the bunny watching chairs” even though we haven’t been able to see a bunny from them in years.) On the day we went back to the old house for the last time to say goodbye, the dozen deer that used to bed down every night behind our house were there are the top of the hill waiting for us as if to say goodbye.
But the last few years, the wildlife situation changed. The number of foxes and coyotes increased as the number of bunnies and turkeys decreased. Apparently everyone in the neighborhood got an outdoor cat because they were everywhere and they’d murder the chipmunks and squirrels and leave them at our door. Bears that used to stick to the forest now came right up to the house and banged against our patio door. It got to the point where we didn’t feel safe leaving the forest facing windows open and were nervous playing with our daughter outside (especially after a bear decided to come join the lunch she and I were having on the patio).
There was other bad stuff too. The old jerk next door had the association pull down my flowering tree to improve his view (of more trees… it made no sense) and I cried when I woke to find them mercilessly hacking it up without so much as a heads up. This was one of many times the community was stupid or cruel and ruined our stuff but they did handle the outdoors at a time in our lives when we were far too busy to do it ourselves so we put up with it.
We had an seemingly endless parade of horrible neighbors. An illegal overcapacity daycare, several out of control dogs, the aforementioned old jerk who’d blow his cigars smoke in our open windows and yell at us constantly for things that had nothing to do with us (There was some kind of beautiful irony when an actual frat house moved next door to him and he was forced to realize what actual hooligans are like. Appreciate how good you had it with the quiet nerds next door now, do ya buddy?).
There were good neighbors too, like my writer buddy Deb, the bird watcher lady on our left, the little girl in the monkey shirt we’d always run into at the playground and the older girls who befriended my toddler. My husband and I had watched those same girls ride up and down our dead end for years in their pink electric car until they were too big for it so there was a strange kind of irony when they put it out on the curb for trash on one of our last visits to the neighborhood and we snagged for our daughter. We never got to tell them we were the ones who took it before we left which is a shame because I think they would have liked to know it was in familiar hands.
But for all we loved about it, we were already outgrowing it so when we knew Baby #2 was on the way, it was time to go. Moving was hard and stressful (we’d had all the time in the world to pick out that house but it was a mad race to find a new place before the baby came so it was a rush decision) but it had to be done. While the sale finalized for New House very shortly before the baby was born, the drama with the Old House continued with contracts breached and offers falling through and all this unnecessary drama until, finally, we closed on it on the 15th of May.
Change is always hard and goodbyes even more so but I’ve been finding this particularly difficult because there was such a rush to move and I was in such an emotional haze because of pregnancy that I never got any feeling of closure. There was no time to sit and process that we were really leaving which was weird and then we were out forever with a new baby in tow. And as wonderful as the new house is, it doesn’t quite feel like home yet, not with the boxes still everywhere.
When we went back for that final visit, though it had only been a few weeks since we moved out, the preschooler said she’d already forgotten all about the old place. The baby will never remember it at all (though she was in it once, for a few minutes at least.) Something about that makes the whole thing stranger, that such a big chunk of our lives is something neither of them will even remember.
But it also makes it easier. Because everyone I loved in the old house is here now. And that’s what makes it a home.
So goodbye, Old House. Thank you for all the wonderful memories with family, friends and forest creatures! Our New House has a very big foundation to fill!
(I really wanted to put a bunch of pictures in this post but I can’t find any right now and I’m out of time so I’ll have to add them later.)
Just for fun, if you want to see what our old house looked like, here’s a slideshow the realtor made for it when it was for sale:
Please note that they made us “stage it” which is why it looks so sterile and devoid of personality (excepting the NaNoWriMo posters!). It looked very different when we actually lived in it!