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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Memories on Moving Day


So if you're reading this it's tomorrow. And I wonder if I'll cry tomorrow. Which means I wonder if I'm crying today. Or if I'll cry later today. Or tonight. Or if I actually already cried yesterday before I finished writing this. Which means I wonder if I am about to cry now.

I'm kinda tired, if you can't tell.

Because tomorrow/today we move out of the house that I've lived in longer than I've lived in any house in all my life. I'm exhausted from packing and unpacking and from lifting and dropping and from going upstairs and downstairs. My body hurts from my split ends to my toenails. I knew once we got to "crunch time" (aka FULL ON SUPERFREAK MODE) I would think back on those days earlier in the month when I packed up a box or two and then spent a few hours looking at wedge sandals at nordstrom.com and/or at photos of Kate Middleton in India and/or at reviews of anti-aging moisturizer.

And I knew I would wonder why when I wasn't wasting time online, I was sitting on the floor flipping through hundreds and hundreds of photos stuffed in plastic shoe boxes stacked high in my closet from our almost seventeen years here. Until yesterday I'd been on the search for one single picture. And I've had a pit in my stomach for weeks because none of those boxes have produced it. I finally had to give up.

It was 1999. I'm guessing September. The photo is of Steve and me and almost 1 year old Joe. We are standing in front of the unfinished fireplace in our under-construction home. Steve is squatting down with Joe on his lap. I'm standing behind Steve with my hands on his shoulders. I'm wearing a white tshirt and jeans with a waist that is probably too high and black sandals from Harold's - a store which doesn't even exist here anymore. I have a black diaper bag slung over my shoulder. I can see that photo in my mind as clearly as I see this screen in front of me. I don't know who took it and I don't know where it is. I do know that we were smiling and young and the whole world seemed bright and full of the happiest of possibilities.

And it could be that it's just the mere fact that I cannot find that darn photo that I might cry. I don't think I'll cry about leaving because to get from here to our new house I will take three right turns and go through two stop signs and two stoplights. That's it. We are moving less than three miles away. The moving in and of itself is not sad because we aren't really moving away. What makes me sad is the force with which the lightening quick passage of time hits me as I move through each of the rooms of my house.

There's the room where I nursed and rocked babies wondering if I would ever do anything else in all of my days. There's the hallway where I sat outside the door of that room and wished I could punch Dr. Ferber in the face because THIS ONE WILL NEVER STOP CRYING. NEVER EVER EVER.

There are the bedrooms where I realized that after reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear 7,435 times, pointing carefully to each word, the light bulb in each little boy's head would click on and they would know that those letters had sounds and those sounds formed words and those words they could finally read on their own would open adventures for them for a lifetime.

There's the kitchen where I packed thousands of lunches, where we had birthday celebrations, Sunday night dinners, late night conversations with friends and more than a few recipes that didn't turn out like they were supposed to.

There's the bathroom where I sat on the floor holding a croupy child and let the steam of the shower lull us to sleep.

There's the front yard where I totally blew my plan to do something creative and clever to tell Steve when he pulled in the driveway from work that we would be having Baby #2. Instead I just walked right outside to where he was setting out the sprinkler and blurted it out as if I was telling him what we were having for dinner.

There's the study where I tapped out words on a computer tucking them safe in the hard drive until my best friend said, "How about a blog?" ;-)

There's the living room where on a sunny September day when the world spun out of control I knelt at the formal chair that had barely even been used and prayed more than I ever have in my life for my husband to walk safely through the front door when so many Americans would not.

We were safe and happy and loved inside the walls of this house.

But there was even more safety and happiness to be found outside of this house where down the alley and around the corner we found love and acceptance among the families who surrounded us.

It was outside where on that same September day I gathered up my two year old and 9 month old babies and squished among other mamas on the deck of our neighbor's house. We ate brownies right from the pan and listened to the eerily silent, blue sky as we waited for those children's daddies to come home safely and prayed as other daddies went in to work to DC to help keep our nation's capital safe.

And for days and months and years, we passed maternity clothes from one friend to the next to the next and back to the first friend again. We handed each other's newborns down the assembly line of mama's arms lining that alley. We answered phones at odd hours and came to care for each other's children when one of us was throwing up with morning sickness and later when new brothers and sisters were born. We put together meal plans for new mamas and bought extra car seats for our mini vans and SUVs. We tested how far a baby monitor's range would function. We taped band-aids on skinned knees of kids who were not our own. We pushed toddlers in swings and broke up fights. We sat on the curb and yelled. "SHARE!" and "HANDS TO YOURSELF!" and "OUT OF THE STREET! CAR! CAR! CAAARRR!"

We shared plans for how to lose the baby weight and then blew the whole diet off sipping wine and snacking on block party dishes and sipping more wine. We joined Bible studies and new churches together. We traded advice on how to get babies to sleep through the night and how to get toddlers to stay dry through night. On nights when our husbands worked late we gathered in each other's kitchens and kept each other company, trying to fit in adult conversation while schlepping mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. We threw three to four children in the bathtub at once, wrestled them into their pjs and walked around the corner to put them to bed. 

We loved each other and we loved each other's children.

Now those children who rode tricycles and scooters are driving off in real cars. They are graduating and dating and going off to college. They are stumbling and succeeding. They are getting their hearts broken and breaking our hearts. And though many of the mamas are back to work and some families have moved, we still hold each other and each child in our hearts knowing that through all the trials and triumphs to come our babies are covered in prayer. We know that God put us in this community, not by accident, but with purpose. We are certain that He did that so that we would know forever that whether we move to another state or another country or two miles down the road, we will always be assured that for days and months and years we lived and loved together the best way we knew how. We all had both small and large parts in raising our families up.

A family of three moved into this house in 1999. A family of five will move out. Now as I am looking at this empty fireplace mantle and I picture Steve, Joe and me standing in front of it so many years ago, Frederick Beuchner's famous quote comes to mind.

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen here. Don't be afraid.

That day in front of the fireplace, Steve and Joe and I were right to be looking into that camera with confidence and excitement for the future. To be sure there were some terrible days, but for us, blessedly, the great majority of our world in and around this home has been utterly, exceptionally beautiful. And that is my prayer today for the new young family of three who will wake to the sun streaming through the blinds and wander these rooms full of our memories.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for how the beautiful far outweighed the terrible here. We were right not to be afraid. Goodbye Mink Meadows. You blessed us so.


2 comments:

Stacy Stiles said...

Hey Jennifer,
Just want to share with you I shed tears as well reading your blog this morning. I remember watching over your sweet, sports-watching children in that house during a stay as a baby-sitting co-op mom. Kyle and I watching Texas football past his bedtime, tucking Drew into his crib, and reading books with Joe. Thanks for letting me make a few memories in your home. Like Jen Fitz mentioned, I too felt the love in your home.

I so enjoy your blog. Your writing is so spunky and fun, and so real. When we moved from Lands End Drive, I felt so sad to leave such a fun bunch of neighbors. We've been in our South Village Drive home now for 11 years. Can't believe how fast days go by. Happy moving day and welcome to the new memories you'll make in your new home!
Stacy

Anna Whiston-Donaldson said...

Goodness. So beautiful! This brought me back to those same days, a different house, different babies, and a different neighborhood, but so many similarities.