I had never planned on leaving the house where we raised our children. In fact, when we put an addition on our house in the midst of our too-many-children-sharing-too-few-bathrooms days, we did so with the idea of putting everything important on one floor. We anticipated aging in our house and we didn’t want to have to battle stair-climbing as we inevitably grew stiff and sore. But with a newly empty nest came new job opportunities for my husband and me, and recently we found ourselves planning the move to a different city.
Moving from the home where we raised our children has been emotional and, in the flood of scurrying to spruce up the house, pack and sort, memories have arisen. And I have to admit, I have shed a few tears as I waded through the stuffed animal collection which had already lived far too long in the basement. After all, this is where our life happened for the past 19 years. And that, I feel, is worth grieving a little.
What finally helped me get through the emotions of leaving and packing was picturing the couple who bought our home. They are a young couple with two sons, and I could imagine their excitement at the size of the backyard, the near proximity to the city park. Their realtor sweetened their initial offer by adding a note at the end, “They see themselves living here next 19 years and raising their children, just like the current owners have.” That realtor was smart; with that statement, I had to fight the urge to simply hand over the house to the young parents.
Instead, I decided to write a letter to the new buyers, and soon, I realized, it’s really a love letter to our house. It goes something like this:
To the Couple Buying Our Home:
I’m so excited you decided to take on the adventure of owning an older home. When we first moved in, we had no idea how quickly 19 years could pass. But time has a way of flying when you are raising children, so all too soon you may find yourself in the same position I am, walking around, touching the familiar walls you’ve painted oh-so-many times. But before we move our final box and shut the front door for the last time, I want to leave you with some hints.
- Chocolate chip cookies taste good here. So does the cookie dough as you are making it, especially when your sons and the neighborhood boys traipse through the kitchen and stick their unwashed fingers in for a taste when they think you aren’t looking.
- The best place to eat pizza in the house is in the family room. Spread out an old sheet on the floor, turn on a movie and be prepared to make memories your children will talk about years later.
- When planning first-day-of-school pictures, consider the front porch.
- If school is called for a snow day, expect all the kids in the neighborhood to show up. Make sure you’ve stocked up on hot chocolate and marshmallows.
- The purple irises on the east side of the house usually bloom just in time to serve as an awesome background for high school prom pictures.
- Christmas trees can be set up in any corner of the living or family room. All work well, but if you set it up in the family room, your whole family will spend more time gazing at it during the season.
- The oven runs a tiny bit hot. If the recipe calls for baking something for 30 minutes, take it out after 28.
- Both upstairs bedrooms have sturdy doors. They can be slammed without breaking when the rooms house 16-year-olds who are mad at life.
- You can buy your children desks for their bedrooms if you want but their homework will most likely get finished at the dining room table.
- When your oldest son brings home the girl that he plans to one day marry, don’t forget to leave the dishes soaking in the large kitchen sink and return to the table. Dirty dishes you will always have, but your son is on the brink moving out forever.
Soon my husband and I will leave this house that echoes with the laughter and tears of all three of my children. The thought of leaving my children’s home, despite our excitement about our new opportunities, weighs me down as I count the remaining days. But a few weeks ago my youngest daughter unexpectedly helped me as she prepared to leave for a study abroad summer in Europe.
“Mom, it’s going to be so weird,” she said. “When I leave you will be in one house, but when I come home, you’ll be somewhere else.”
Her words weren’t meant to comfort me, but they did. To her, to all my children, home is not really a particular building. Home is where their father and I are, where future family memories will be made, where love will always come to live.
Lori Stratton is the mother of a grown and married son, and two daughters in college. In addition to being a high school English teacher, Lori writes for various local and national publications. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.