I first laid eyes on the stunning grey beauty 14 years ago. Classic with a modern flair, I knew right away I was ready to put down roots. The long search was finally over.
We had found our forever home.
In those exhilarating early days of new home ownership, I would run from room to room with my color wheel, espousing on paints swatches with the passion and intensity others reserve for political debates.
I let our son, who was 6 years old at the time, choose the color he wanted for his bedroom walls, and I believed it was some divine intervention when he chose the exact same color I had already secretly selected. Our daughter, a mere toddler, was happy with any color as long as it was some shade of pink.
So we painted the walls and laid down new carpeting. We moved in our old hand-me-down furniture and those nicked pieces somehow looked vintage rather than battered in the rosy glow of this beautiful home. In the kitchen, my kitchen, I scrubbed the cabinets clean, lined the shelves with thin floral paper, and filled those cupboards with food to feed my young children so they would grow strong and thrive.
And they certainly did grow. FAST. Before I knew it we were dismantling the swing set that had provided countless hours of outdoor fun. My daughter had long since outgrown her pink bedroom, and my son’s icy blue walls were scuffed and pitted from the antics of so many rowdy boys over the years.
Fourteen years seems like a lifetime to a child and to one now very senior cockapoo.
But to me those 14 years went by like the second hand on a clock—rhythmically, quietly, quickly. It wasn’t always easy. But those were the years of children safely under my roof at night, and spirited conversations at the dinner table. Those years were my children’s entire youth. And mine as well.
Now our son attends college 350 miles away from this house and our daughter will leave for college in less than two years. Our nest will be empty. And we will be too small for this abundant home, taking up space meant for another family, a younger family still sparkling with noise and light and dreams of the future.
My parents never did move out of my childhood home. At least they haven’t yet. They have watched the original neighbors leave for town houses, city apartments, and adult living communities, and they have stubbornly stayed put. The stairs are getting difficult for them. The daily maintenance required to keep a home running is becoming a chore.
But they love that house, and I have to admit I love returning to it. It still looks, feels, and smells like home to me. I think it always will. My in-laws are also in the same house they moved into 54 years ago. In 1964 my father-in-law gave the builder a $10 bill and a firm handshake. That was the deposit that held their dream house for them. In the years since then they’ve installed a chair lift to take them to the second floor. No one has used the pool in years. Yet they have absolutely no intention of ever leaving.
My husband has no such attachment to the stake we claimed in this Jersey town 14 years ago. Now he throws around the “D” word— downsize—like it’s not a matter of if, but when.
And I worry that our children will miss out by not having this home to return to, even long after they’ve moved into apartments and houses of their own. Will a new place, a smaller and unfamiliar place without the memories and shared history, be enough to lure them back for visits and holiday meals? Will they grieve the loss of this wood and steel structure that anchors them to a distant youth. Wouldn’t I if my parents sold their home?
And how do I go from a lifetime of accumulating—tchotchkes, friends, memories—and begin discarding. To downsize is to reduce in size and scope. To make smaller. Downsizing my home will most likely mean discarding, giving away, the antique mahogany table handcrafted by my great grandfather and capable of seating 12 tightly packed adults. There just won’t be enough space. I can’t imagine we’ll be able to keep our beautiful baby grand piano, a generous housewarming gift from my mother-in-law and her sister.
My life will also become smaller, reduced in scope. The possibilities are no longer endless. Time feels much more finite. Although this probably has much less to do with the home I live in, and more to do with the inexorable march of time.
I am a realist, and I know there are a million reasons to leave this house that has outgrown us, and only one good reason to stay. I have loved every minute spent in this home. I’ve loved mothering my children here, building my marriage, entertaining friends and family during holidays and birthday celebrations. I’ve loved this life we built in and around this home.
I’ll adapt of course. But I will surely miss this place.
Cheryl Gottlieb Boxer resides in New Jersey, where she micromanages a husband, her teenage children, and a confounding cockapoo. Her writing has appeared in The Mighty, Grown & Flown, Kveller, Her View From Home, Parent Co. and Sammiches & Psych Meds. You can also find her on Facebook at nosickdaysformom.