Monday, December 14, 2015

Goodbye Southern Avenue

2015 was the year that Nancy sold her house.  The house that was a physical manifestation of all of her hard work; her professional accomplishments; her sacrifices as a working mom; and her heart.  It was the home to her children.  It was a welcoming space where everyone who entered became family.  It was a house filled with music and memories.  Not many people could appreciate what leaving that house meant for her.  Of course it was time to go.  The house no longer suited her needs and it was time for a new family to come make new memories and play new music.  Not many people could understand what it felt like for her to see the For Sale sign posted up in the yard, and when an offer came in, no one knew why she resisted before signing that offer.  No one could truly understand what signing that offer meant.  No one could, but I can.

The Nancy in that story isn't me.  It's my grandma who sold her home this summer after decades of love and life filled those rooms.  Now her namesake is processing all of her same emotions, sorting through bittersweet feelings of what leaving this house means.  Today is the last day that this house belongs to me.  Tomorrow at 11am we close on this house.  What a fitting word- "close".  That's truly what it is.  It's a closing of a chapter, the closing of one door to make room to open a new one.

It was the summer of 2006.  I was succeeding professionally and personally.  I had met the love of my life performing in a show and was gaining recognition and promotions at work.  I was months away from finishing a Masters degree and life was good.  In Kalamazoo, a new program called the Promise had been announced.  Any student who went through KPS for their entire education would receive a full scholarship to any public Michigan university.  I realized that my life was in Kalamazoo so maybe it was time to put down roots.

I fell in love with my house the minute I saw it.  The same can be said of my husband.  I knew I would marry him the night we met.  I've never been one to overthink much in my life and my house was no exception.  The sweet Cape Cod with the stone front had a cherry tree and Japanese maple in the front yard.  The house I grew up in had stones out front and it took me back to those days, riding my bike out front of my childhood home.  I told my mom I found my "mini-Woodworth".

After entering through a front storm door I was greeted by an arched wooden door painted green.  I swore Bilbo Baggins would be on the other side of that door.  It was a magical door.  That Thanksgiving, Trevor and I would take our engagement photo in front of it.

I walked the rooms and just knew it was my house.  In the late summer of that year it officially became mine.  I was a homeowner.  There is no way to distill 9 years into one blog post.  If you've been to my house, you know that it was a house filled to the brim with laughter, love, and happiness.  I think in some ways it was always just my house.  Trevor came along to look at houses with me, but it was my purchase alone.  It was a house to my tastes.  Eventually he moved in and a few years later we added two giggling, rambunctious boys.  We knew after Will was born that the clock had started ticking on our time there.  Our neighborhood is one of the most beloved places for people to buy their first home in the area.  Our neighborhood is for people starting out or starting over and we are neither of those things anymore.

It was for sale for 6 months before we got an offer.  I'm grateful for that time to enjoy one last summer on our little corner lot watching the boys play outside and watching Jack ride his bike around the driveway.  We hired a friend to take photos of us inside our home to freeze this moment in time- this transition summer between living in the house that was mine and moving to the house that will be ours.

In a sign that was too incredible to miss, we received an offer on this house on November 11, 9 years to the day that Trevor proposed to me.  If I was waiting for a sign that a new chapter was beginning, this was it.  As grateful as I am for how fortunate we are to be living this life, my heart is filled with the heaviness of this great transition.  Today this house is mine, tomorrow it belongs to someone else.  

Everything I love most in this world is coming with me to the new house, but the view will be forever different.  I have walked through the rooms in my house slowly and carefully, just like I did 9 years ago.  If I close my eyes, I can hear the laughter that filled these rooms, like during the engagement party we held which also served as a housewarming party.  I can hear our dear friend Linda reading aloud from a book written in the 1940s on "how to make love", a primer on love and dating.  Linda's gone, but in my living room, I can hear her laughter.  I direct my view to where our chaise lounge used to be placed and I can see my friend Adam crouched on the floor eating Taco Bell and watching YouTube videos on my old laptop.  He's gone too, but in my living room I can hear him again. The living room walls are the same color they've been for 8 years when Trevor surprised me by painting them while I was away on a work trip.  In the dining room, the floorboards creak the same way they did almost 5 years ago when I paced them back and forth while timing the contractions I was having before Jack was born.  When I'm in my bedroom, I can look out the window to where there lilac bush is planted.  It exploded in blossoms on the day we brought Will home from the hospital.  In my basement, I can trace the place where Jack took his first, tentative, steps.  In my kitchen I can remember crowds of friends standing around at cast parties discussing how amazing we were that night or all of the missteps we noticed.  The view is going to change and I fear that those memories will be harder to recall when I can't be in this sacred, special place anymore.

Feeling all mixed up, I called my grandma today.  I told her I was moving.  "That's so exciting!!" she rejoiced into the phone.  She recalled for me all of the moves she made when my dad and his siblings were growing up.  Decades later, she can recall those spaces.  If she can recall them, then I know that I can too.  My grandma's house may have served as a monument to her success, but we know that monuments fall.  I think if you asked her, she'd say that hearing that her namesake has achieved the kind of personal and professional success that has allowed her to have choices in her life and make her mark on this world is the real legacy.

I will miss this house more than I could have imagined.  I walked the space today and on Wednesday when we say our final goodbye, I'll take some video to show the boys someday.  While walking around the house I traced my fingers over the walls.  I went to the front door where the first memory I have of this house took place.  I hugged it.  So help me God, I hugged a door.  I hugged my door and cried.  My tears dropped off of my cheeks and soaked into the door. My tears are now buried deep into that old wooden door.  This house and I are forever linked, forever bonded.  This house sheltered this little family for 9 years, how can I be anything other than grateful for it's walls and doors..  

Thank you house.  Thank you for being the setting of the most incredible decade of my life; thank you for the shelter; the warmth, the coziness.  Thank you for your creakiness, your charm, your stones and your trees.  Someday I'll bring the boys back to your front yard.  I'll tell them that we're standing on holy ground.  This house was their first house, the place where they learned to walk and talk.  It was the place where I became Mrs. Stefanick and Mama.  But for now, it's time for a new house and new memories.  It's time for a house that's ours.

The new house has a Japanese maple in the yard just like the one we're leaving behind.  Soon, the new house will also have our love and laughter.  Soon the new house will be our new home.  I can't wait.