We were in our mid 20s when we found it.
I was pining for a way out of our mundane existence at a nondescript apartment complex. Everything was beige. Everything was manicured. Nothing was ours.
Then I saw it—simple and unassuming. Its relevance to my life felt tangible. It seemed to look at me and stare the same way I was gazing upon it. It was a simple house—white with a modest front porch on a busy street facing a community rose garden. For fun, I showed it to my husband.
“Cool, let’s go look at it.”
His preposterous idea took hold of me in seconds, and I was on the phone to the realtor.
Some people need fancy. Some people need polished. I needed to find my soul again, and I found it the second we walked through the front door of what became our first house together.
The air was thick with the smell of vacancy and old wood—wood that was all original. The dated brass fixtures and blue enamel lacquered all over the master bedroom were mild irritations that couldn’t keep me from seeing potential.
This is it.
Project by project, day by day, it became ours. And like the soft, worn pair of jeans saved for lazy Sunday afternoons, it was comfortable. It fit.
We grew there. We learned responsibility—the real kind that requires lawns to be mowed, utilities to be paid, and fights to be forgiven.
We snuggled and made muffins from dollar packet mixes on Saturday mornings, and our home smelled like coffee and old wood and baking. Some days it smelled like rotten leftovers or wet dog on rainy days. For seven years it was just ours.
We carried our newborn son across the threshold and straight up to the little yellow room we’d fixed up for him—where I would rock him and cry at the thought of ever leaving him.
Our son grew. He crawled. We wrestled together on the floor in his room. He tested his limits, and ours, on the stairs and in the cupboards. He took his first stiff-legged steps from the front door to the dining room. He discovered bubbles for the first time when we blew them in the garden across the street. He grew. We grew. And his giggles filled our home.
Every memory I have of my son during his first year of life hangs in the air of our home, floating with the dust motes. Every memory of eight significant years of marriage rests invisibly in each corner. These memories have voices. I heard them when I stood in our home for the last time. It was empty. I stood in the quiet on the last day and listened, because there was nothing left to see. And as I listened, I heard us—eight brilliant years of us, the last of which was the very best because a tiny, wailing roommate had joined us.
We were everywhere. In the discolored wear patterns on my son’s carpet. In the grime left behind on light switches that had been flipped thousands of times as we came and went. In the crumbs left in the back of the cabinets, and of course, in the dog hair that I’m certain will forever remain in the nooks and crannies.
I stood in the living room and let my tears bear witness to the best time of my life so far, but it was time to leave, once and for all. Our home was sold.
I miss my newborn son—the baby that he was in that house. He won’t remember the house; he’ll never know that his existence was half the reason it was so hard to leave it behind, because it felt like leaving him behind too.
Sometimes a house is a house. But sometimes it is a home. As we nourished each other, our home nourished us—with peace and safety and warmth and—most of all—with memories.