Have you ever walked into a house that was once filled with the pitter-patter of small feet, a tiny person’s mess, an ungodly number of pictures and toys, and an endless amount of noise to find it empty? No longer are the toys that littered the floors, no longer are the pictures that adorned the walls, no longer can the hum of the refrigerator be heard even at the quietest time – the silence is unbearable, the empty rooms and empty walls barely show any signs of what used to be, yet it is so filled with memories. Christmas trees and birthday cakes, muddy tracks and whiny boo-boos, that first moment when it became yours and the moment you knew it would no longer be that. Have you ever felt the kind of lost of opening a door and expecting to find so much to be greeted by such emptiness? It’s hard. The words escape me.
As you stand in the entryway and wonder how there is so little, how is it so empty, how is it like there had been no one there? There is no one there to greet you, it smells empty and lonely; who knew lonely had a scent? It takes everything you have to push forward. You are alone. The house is empty. You plug in the air freshener, walk up the stairs to gawk at the emptiness from above – hoping there is some sign of the life that this home once held so it isn’t just a big empty house. Again you are greeted with nothing. The little scribbles that once lined the staircase are painted over, the permanent marker drawing that was once on the shelf is gone, the carpets are clean, and the closets are empty. You are impressed. Less than three days ago the house was full – it had couches and beds, pictures and toys, a sense of purpose, and here it sits empty waiting for its next inhabitants to find it and make it their own.
A part of you cries. It remembers the first boxes, the first time you turned the key in the lock. It remembers the countless hours you spent moving your things in, painting your colors on the walls, changing that lock and doorknob so that it better reflected who was living there. It remembers the fights that the walls had witnessed, about paint and decorating and who was more right. It remembers when you told your husband you would be having another baby. It remembers the moment your husband came bursting through the door to tell you he had finally got it, he finally had his own center, and it was in that moment you could see him bursting with pride but felt a dread knowing that your whole world was about to come tumbling down. It remembers the friends and family that helped you make your first memories there, helping you move your things in and then helping you celebrate your victory, funny how those are the people who also helped you make some of the final memories in your space. As you aimlessly wander through the house looking for a purpose to being there you realize there is nothing left. The cleaning supplies your realtor asked you to leave are there, there is a router that keeps your security system running but really there isn’t anything that is you.
As you walk out to get the mail you wonder how often you will be coming back to do that. How many more times will you walk through that door that you spent so much time painting? How much longer will you be able to hang on to this piece of your past? You have a new house – your husband is there, the toys and pictures that once gave this house its character are all waiting to do the same there, yet you feel lost. There is something about the challenge of taking a house and making it a home that you are reluctant about facing. It’s not the first time you’ve moved, and it’s not the farthest you’ve moved, but something about this house you are standing in front of makes you wonder how anything will match up? How will anything be so yours? It wasn’t the perfect home, but it was your home. How will the next chapter begin? As the small person you are still carrying makes their presence known you climb into your car and start it, reluctant to leave but knowing that you have to, you slowly back down your driveway and make your way towards the future, still eyeing the piece of your past that you are so scared to leave.