My husband and I shuffle our son and daughter into our favorite burger place, and a memory comes back that I haven’t ever counted as a memory. I didn’t know it was there, and suddenly, at this most appropriate moment it wades into my mind’s eye and is as fresh as the day it happened. I am thinking of the first time we visited this restaurant, when it was just a place we were trying on our first day in this town—our first day in the first house we moved into as a family.

We had come from a townhouse we were desperate to get out of—a gorgeous rowhome with two bedrooms that had become too small for the four of us, including our 1 year old daughter who wasn’t sleeping and our 3 year old son who had burst into our lives under piles and piles of baby equipment that would become piles and piles of toddler toys that we had no room for in our ideal-for-2-DINKs set-up. (That’s double-income, no kids in home-seller talk.)

What the kids looked like when we bought it, 2013
What the kids looked like when we bought it, 2013

I assume this memory of visiting this restaurant took place after movers had set all our furniture and boxes and toys and toys and toys in our house and wished us luck. We started the weeks-long work of unpacking and decided it was time for some well-earned provisions. The steps to get to the restaurant aren’t what is clear to me now that this day floats into my vision. What I remember is sitting in a booth, waiting for our food, and looking around. These people are our neighbors, I thought. They don’t know that we are new. They have no idea we are sitting here knees bent, ready to spring up and take a flying leap into this new adventure. They just think we are one of them, out for dinner on a Saturday night. I wonder if any of them will be my new best friend.

Let’s fast forward back to the present. “Do you remember that day?” I ask my husband.moving-header

“Not at all,” he says, as he tries to tame my now 5-year-old daughter, who is crying because she wants some twisty twigs, the entertainment she knows she gets here in this place we’ve frequented for the past five years.

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Makeshift wine bottle opener from move day 2013. Because when you need wine, and the real one is buried in one of 100s of boxes...
Makeshift wine bottle opener from move day 2013. Because when you need wine, and the real one is buried in one of 100s of boxes…

We are here today because we needed to clear out of the house. It is now for sale—we are moving to cut my husband’s commute at his new job down by 2 hours a day. The house has been listed for only a few days, and someone who liked it but made a lowball offer wanted to come back for a second visit to see if it was worth what we were asking.

Is it worth it? They wonder. And I want to shake them by their shoulders. You don’t know! I think. What this house will give back to you.

The house is not what it was when we bought it. We found this house after a year-long search. We were beat out by several people on several houses, until we got good at finding promising houses immediately as they were listed and visiting within hours. We saw this house the first day it was listed and made a full price offer—one of 2 that came through that day. The next day, 47 people called about the listing. The seller honored her commitment to us, which was the first of many gifts the house passed our way.

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333MayToysBecause there had been so much competition, we asked for nothing after inspection. We would do the work ourselves. And it was work. I read it in our current listing: a roof, windows, gutters, drain tile, a garage door, a washer dryer… But those words are so sterile. A roof under which we’d have impromptu family dance parties, windows for spring breezes, gutters and drain tile to keep us warm and dry, a garage door to welcome us home, a washer and dryer that send that pillow-soft fabric softener scent to the patio (always a surprise), for clean, fresh clothes to make memories in—too romantic?

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IMG_7002The truth is probably somewhere in between. I think of when we realized that the home had some kind of DIY drain tile—that the process for new drain tile involved ripping out basement drywall, drilling up the cement floor, passing a mountain’s worth of rocks through the basement window, and being left with what looks like a torn up mess that cost thousands of dollars. A Disney vacation worth of dollars, and only a mess to prove it. I remember tears, sleepless nights—and relief when it was done, and we were dry, and rain knew where to go after satisfying our grass. And then, when we were ready, our house’s gift back to us—the vision I always had for my basement realized. Plush carpet, a guest suite bedroom for my son, a place for all his Legos.

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IMG_9529And every improvement went something like that. The house cried out for help, and we cried with it. And we celebrated together when it was done.

We finish up our dinner and head to the neighbor’s house—the people who have become our people. We are so close, so associated, that when the For Sale sign went up in our yard, anyone who knows us asked how they were handling it. The short answer—we ward off tears by laughing as they give us crap. We are excited together. Our hearts are breaking.

They and the rest of the people who it hurt to tell are another gift from this house. I picture a map of the past five years. A bird’s eye view would show the house glowing bright—this house as the center of the past five years, and the community we’ve built, the memories we’ve made, would be lines that rope out from its center.

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IMG_9723We were at our neighbor’s house to watch this second showing, to imagine what they might be like, what they might be thinking. As I watch this group of inspectors who are not inspectors circle the house, touch its walls, bend down and scrutinize the pipes, I hope with my deepest heart that these are not the ones—these buyers who see this place as a set of walls and shingles and flooring.

And I wonder—how have we come from everything feeling so new in that first restaurant visit to where we are now? How did this place work its way so deep into our identity that I take this inspection as a personal offense, like they are insulting a family member.

How will I ever say goodbye?

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Sick

I want to hand the keys to the buyers who cannot resist—who leave the scrutiny to the inspectors. I want their hearts to scream “Home!” I want them to be the people who love it as we did, who walk into the house and within five minutes cannot see themselves living without it, who start building their vision of lazy Saturday morning books and backyard brats and beers and morning coffees on the way to the closest cafe so they can sign the papers and make it theirs now. I want these visions to become memories—five or more years of beautiful memories, treasures to take with them to the next place that they will call home.

No, these are not the buyers, I think. We will know. We will know when we see them, knees bent like ours are now. Ready to spring into whatever it is that comes next.

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