In 2008, my boyfriend bought a house.
The 90-year-old Dutch Colonial boasted wall-to-wall carpeting, a shitty little kitchen, and wood paneling *everywhere.*
I really didn’t like it, but I was a chill girlfriend, so I was quiet in my judgment. And besides, I could fit all my belongings in the trunk of my 1991 Thunderbird and split at any moment, so what did I care?? We moved him in with an army of friends who came over with the promise of beer and pizza (the universal currency for all 20-somethings); one of whom got more than she bargained for when the shot-vac sucked up a dead mouse from the back of a kitchen cabinet.
Eventually, carpet was removed, floors were refinished, and I agreed to move in; on the stipulation that one day he’d make an honest woman out of me (please, pardon the archaic reference, I wasn’t previously such a raging feminist).
In 2010, we were married in record-breaking July heat. We brought our wedding party by the house for photos and a breath of cool air, as the AC on our bus couldn’t handle the pressure and simply crashed.
In 2011, we pulled up more carpet, added a gas fireplace, and got pregnant. After only two months of ‘trying,’ I found myself pacing the linoleum tiles in front of the washer and dryer in the dim pre-dawn light, waving around a urine-saturated plastic stick like a true lunatic and cursing in disbelieve, excitement, and full-on terror.
Six months later, during a party to celebrate my husbands 30th birthday, my water broke in the dining room, soaking an upholstered chair that I’d inherited from my grandmother. Days after that, we came home to find a cooler on the porch, stocked and re-stocked with food by friends, ready to help us cope with the chaos of parenting a NICU baby.
By Christmas of 2014, we had a fraser fur in the living room and a house suddenly filled with tiny, incontinent boys. Those years were a sleepless blur of breast milk and dirty diapers, saturated by a haze of pregnancy and postpartum hormones and fueled by coffee and brief surges of crazed adrenaline.
I became intimately acquainted with the way the street lights edged past the blinds in the dead of night, and a pro at balancing an iPhone opposite a nursing infant. When we came up for air in 2016, we figured it was probably the perfect time to potty train and also to gut the full bath and kitchen. After interviewing no fewer than 7 contractors, we finally settled on one who ran out of money halfway through the project. Five dramatic and painful months later, we had a gorgeous new kitchen, bathroom, and a newfound distrust of people...*just* in time for the world to go to complete shit under a Trump presidency!
Desperate to make sense of this unsettling new reality, I cautiously ventured out into our neighborhood and found the most amazing people living there. Low and behold, our house was situated squarely inside a city that was notoriously damaged by decades of sanctioned nonsense, but crawling with people determined to undo some of that harm. Outside our front door, we found a big-hearted community poised for action. We decided to do our best to harness some of that compassion and bring it back into our home.
We transformed in that little space on Elm. We shed our previous selves; me relinquishing a content, mostly-naïve young woman to emerge a mom on a mission, routinely popping Celexa and slowly losing patience with the status quo. Our marriage climbed and coasted and bumped, it weathered in the way that marriages do over time. Together, we discovered parenting is messy business with no right answer and we consciously leaned right into the chaos. The boys learned to belly crawl on our floors, then stand, cruise and toddle. They eventually learned to chase each other and wrestle, and became experts at both. There were countless time-outs on the steps by the door, and more splattered urine than one house really deserves. Our home was the backdrop of all the little moments, and many of the big ones too.
Eleven years ago, I was not impressed by that shabby, rodent-invested structure. The doubts I had were pretty palpable. Tonight though, when was said goodbye, I realized that I may never love another home in the same way again. I am filled with gratitude for the privilege of being a homeowner and for the family that emerged from that place.