Julia and Carolyn in the living room 2008
When Brandon and I got married we did what many young, eager couple do and promptly bought a dog and a house. It was a perfectly wonderful little house and when we quickly found out we were expecting our first baby we prepared a perfectly wonderful nursery inside our cozy home. A little over a year later, with new jobs and new baby, we decided it was silly for us both to be driving 40 and 60 miles (each respectively) to work every day and we decided to sell our house. I cried, a lot. I did not want to leave the place I brought my first baby home to, where she learned to walk and had her first Christmas.
Alas, it was inevitable and thankfully we got a fantastic offer (literally months before the whole housing market crashed), with only one stipulation – a very quick moving date.
Left in a bit of a lurch with a toddler (and another baby now on the way) we scrambled to find a new home in Kansas City. As luck would have it my Grandma called and let us know she had a duplex that had just come available. Her renter needed to break the lease and would be moving out the following Saturday, which was precisely when we would need to be moving in. It was a convenient coincidence that we worked for the good of all involved.
I remember that Saturday, we were bringing our things in the garage as the former renter took things out the front door. With only a few years of marriage and one baby we didn’t have much to move, though undoubtedly I was overwhelmed. My Grandma offered to have new carpet put down but I reassured her that we would not be staying too long. I distinctly remember telling her “we’ll probably only stay for six months or so.” That was 2006.
Of course I could not have foreseen the ten years that would unfold before our fledgling family. Bringing home baby number two, starting a new job, cars needing replaced, cavities needing filled. I could not have anticipated standing in my tiny kitchen answering the phone call that would inform me that my Grandma had suffered a massive aneurism, or saying goodbye only a few days later. The holidays of that year were bleak and are now blurry, but the days continued to roll on. Then my gallbladder went bad and the mailbox seemed to bring a new bill on a daily basis for what seemed like a year. Meanwhile my babies kept on growing and now they had surely hunted hundreds of Easter eggs in the living room, carved more than a few pumpkins in the kitchen, and not only learned to walk but could now climb the door frames and slide down the staircase. At some juncture in it all I saw a dermatologist about some pesky acne which led to a mole removal which led to a phone call informing me I had amelanoma, which inevitably led to a lot of scars and more bills. By now it was 2011 and five years had flown by.
With more debt than I care to think about and hoping for an adventure we took a year-long assignment with my work to open an office in the Baltimore metro. Packing only what could fit into our four-door car we headed East and let our duplex serve as an over-sized storage unit as we recalibrated life. It was an incredible experience and gave us a lot of time to think about life, what we wanted out of it, and how we might get there. As we rolled back into Kansas City and climbed back into our familiar beds we had a renewed goal to buy a home, eventually… someday.
After returning home from Baltimore we would occasionally stop by an open house or wander some acreage and imagine what might be, but the right place and the right timing did not come. Simultaneous to keeping an eye out for our perfect home we made a fairly substantial decision to have another baby (or two). This decision both stalled our house hunt and made it all the more urgent as we were quickly outgrowing our duplex. Once Gwyneth was born we set out in earnest to find a perfect home for our family, and even made an offer on one we especially liked. But, as we had seen many times before, life intervened as we were surprised to learn that we would be welcoming a fourth baby a bit sooner than we had expected. The house hunting stopped and we recalibrated once again. 2015 came and went with no new house, but a beautiful baby boy instead, amen.
So here we find ourselves… ten years later. Until recently I had this idea that if my overly optimistic twenty-five year old self was sitting in front of me now I would shake her and say “get a clue!” I imagined lecturing her on the importance of health insurance benefits, personal finance, and cherishing that last visit with Grandma that you never knew would be the last. But… I’m softening on twenty-five year old me lately. I am getting comfortable with being grateful for her optimism, appreciating that her naïve financial mistakes were lessons that are shaping the next twenty-five years of life rather than ruining it. And that last evening at Grandma’s house, it was a Tuesday, when I hurried out to soon – I will always regret it but I learned. I try so much harder now to slow down, admittedly not always well, but I try. I learned. I am learning, and progressing and trying.
Our six-months-turned-ten-years in the duplex are quickly drawing to a close. Soon we will be moving to a house that I am totally convinced is exactly where we are supposed to be for this next chapter of life. I am both crazy-anxious to start painting, organizing, and making new memories and yet incredibly sad to say goodbye to a home that has held so much meaning for us. Easter mornings, Christmas Eves, sunny days, cook outs, blizzards, dance parties, long talks with friends, four years of homeschool lessons, three new babies home from the hospital, first steps, paper airplanes, lots of messes, and so much love – all inside these walls.
It is a bittersweet few weeks ahead but, ten years later, I think we’re finally ready.