To the next people who live in this house,
You don’t know me, but I am the last woman to live in this house. I wanted to tell you a little bit about the place you’re about to live.
When I first came here, seven years ago, I was a child. I was married, had a career, but I was spoiled and young. So much younger than age can measure. I had known sadness, but not hardship, and I had no idea what I was getting into. Seven years can change a lot. This house is where I stopped calling myself a girl. I’m not sure if it’s these walls that did it, but that realness will stay after I leave.
The kitchen was the first place we changed, and financing the floors was how we learned what “six months no interest” really means: if it’s not all paid by six months, you’re going to face ALL THE INTEREST. That was hard to swallow. The living room walls are blue, but that’s not the first color I picked. We bought three gallons of Tea Time Beige, and after only a few swipes on the wall, I instantly hated the color. The paint is still in the basement. I promise we’ll get rid of it before we close. Anyway, that’s when I learned the importance of testing your color before you stock up.
The hallway outside of the bathroom is where I read the pregnancy test that turned me into a mother. I took it on a whim, on my way to work, and I called into the back bedroom where my husband was sleeping. I told him to put on his glasses, and he looked and it and said “REALLY?” and gave me this side hug. The only light was coming from the sconces over the vanity. It was the last carefree moment we ever had.
The window in the corner of the living room is where I sat down hard on the couch the day my mother called to tell me my grandmother died. The couch was always there; it’s where I was sitting when I called my Papa to say goodbye, when I was stranded in a snowstorm and he was dying in Florida. In the backyard, which I never tamed, I used to think of my long-dead father when I tried to dig or landscape. He must have been laughing so hard at me. Our whole family has watched the birds in the hedge next door for years now. It feels a little lame, but we can’t help getting thrilled when we see cardinals or blue jays. There are wild raspberries in the hedge on the opposite side. They’re thorny and the neighbors hate them, but they are our favorite part of every year.
I wrote my first novel on the back porch, bit by bit over several years. This is also the first place I ever called myself a writer. I was sitting at the kitchen table when I got the news about my first paid writing gig. I jumped up and down and cried in disbelief. Some of the happiest moments of my adult life have happened at a little desk pushed up against the left back window, before sunrise, with a hot cup of coffee at my side.
Last October, my sister threw me a giant surprise party to celebrate my turning 30. I stepped onto the back porch and saw our backyard full will a huge tent strung with gorgeous lights and a crowd of people cheering for me. I was so stunned, but later, when I watched a video of myself stepping onto the porch, I noticed my son holding up his arms and pronouncing “all Mama’s friends!” That’s what I will forever think of when I think of that night, and all the campfires we’ve had in the backyard. How lucky we are to have these friends.
This doesn’t cover all the memories of this home: sitting on the front porch steps eating popsicles, dance parties after dinner with sauce-covered boys, greeting trick or treaters, shoveling our little driveway, naming strays, walking to the dinosaur playground, birthday parties and Easter brunches and a million nights of takeout on the couch with a good movie. But I need to stop because I know the most important thing is that none of this matters. This is not our home to make memories in anymore. It’s your turn now.
You don’t have to keep anything the same. You can paint the siding or tear down the raspberries or demolish the little back porch. This house is yours now, to make perfect for you and the family you plan to raise here. And I want you to know how special that is to me, to know that a family is coming here. To know that you will be layering more messy fabulous family love onto the messy fabulous family love that has already happened here.
I’m not giving you my blessing, because you don’t need it. You are already scheming, I’m sure, where you’ll put the Christmas tree and what color your children’s room will be. Your touch is already flooding the walls. I hope you have the same profound transformations that I have had while you call this place your home. And if you ever choose to move on, I hope you can have the same peace that I do, saying goodbye.
Here is the post I wrote sharing pictures of our brand new house in 2009. It's amazing how much has changed.