Sunday, November 17, 2013

Home is where my family is

There’s an old saying, Home is where the heart is. Very true, but I prefer a slightly modified version: Home is where my family is. I’ve been thinking about this idea of “home” a lot lately as we’ve been closing in (finally!) on the sale of our home in Whitinsville, where our family lived for 7 years. I say “home,” but is that place now a “house?” When is a house just a house, and when does it become a “home?” What makes a house a “home” anyway?

It hasn’t been exactly fun owning two homes, and we’re certainly thankful for the closing that’s scheduled for 2 weeks from now on the sale of our “old house” as we now refer to it. It’s funny to think of it as our “old” house, though, since it was just 4 short months ago that we were still living there and the place was bursting with all the vibrant, thriving fun of our bustling daily family life. But these past few months, as I’ve made countless trips back to the old house to look after it and get it ready for sale, I’ve caught myself on numerous occasions experiencing sharp pangs of sadness as I’ve walked around outside or strolled through the empty halls and rooms. A bittersweet sadness over what feels a little like the loss of so many wonderful memories in that home, each memory like a little life coming to an end in irreversible finality as we prepare to hand the keys over to new owners for whom the place will be a blank slate, an empty and memory-less container which they will begin filling with their own memories.

We’ve had so many good times in that house, starting with Colette and me locating it on our snowy house-hunting trip in the winter of 2005. One thing I've always loved about Colette is her sense of adventure - she's always up for the next surprise or trip or leg of the journey. Bottom line is she is just plain fun! (with a capital "F" and a capital "UN"!) I cherish her exploring spirit and she helps bring that out in me (something I frequently need, I will add). So when a great job opportunity half-way across the country came up late in 2005, we looked at each other and I knew we were about to dive in!

It didn't take me long to rattle off all the reasons why we should go for it, and so we did...traveling across the country from Louisville, KY to the snow-filled hills of central Massachusetts to find our new baby - 835 Samuel Drive in Whitinsville, MA.

During our few months in temporary living construction on our new house was being completed. On our end, there were all the careful selections of paint colors (yellow throughout), our very first granite counters ever (called uba-tuba), and light fixtures which I always loved because they remind me of The Cheesecake Factory (one of our favorite places on earth).

 I had marveled at Colette's artistic hand at work in the previous homes we'd owned, but this was the first time we were buying a new home and it was a special joy to see her begin bringing this new "blank slate" to life. It's one thing to "interior design" a house, but it's quite another to bring a house to life and make it a home that is truly and uniquely yours...that's what Colette does, and it's awesome to watch - like a piece of art coming together in stages of color and form that you watch the artist forming but in the end still wind up surprised and amazed at how unexpectedly perfect, how you, it ends up when finished...

After we got settled into our new place, there were attempts and re-attempts to grow grass in the front lawn, each of which culminated in me eventually killing the grass with a systematic lack of water. There were weed-picking sessions where like a half-crazed yard lunatic I drug all the kids out in the July heat for a day of picking crabgrass. This is where we discovered that our little 3 year old Chloe actually enjoys picking weeds (although her glee was a bit canceled out by the boys’ weed-picking ant-glee).

And there were our dogs. Sugar the almost-Sheepdog with her barking and chewing.

  Then Barney the Pug who relocated from the Florida Sunshine. And finally Irie the baby Sheepadoodle in all her fluffiness. There were countless family games in our yard. Basketball and wiffle ball, football games & many more.

 There were snowball fights and igloos and sledding down snow mountains created by the plow truck.

 In my mind's eye I can see Chloe bursting onto the scene in 2009 and, before we knew it, right there in the mix like a little pink blur chasing a ball or picking a flower or just running and giggling wildly.

For 7 years there was so much life and activity in this now-dormant building. Walking the empty halls these past months I couldn’t stop the flood of memories: the family sing-star karaoke games, the thanksgiving feasts Colette so exquisitely and lovingly created, Easter egg hunts inside and in the field behind us, 

Hunter’s lost airplane that flew just a little too high and too far over the woods across the street, countless family picture sessions with me sweating as I ran from the camera to jump into place on the couch just in time to beat the self-timer and with a face that always sort of looked just a little bit like that.

There were home decor changes, with Colette's creative vision coming more and more to life through a steady flow of life and freshness through subtle replacements of chairs and tables and furniture re-arrangements, each carefully bringing our home just a little closer to becoming “us.” There was painting and repainting to transform our family room and kitchen from yellows to warm colors to finally just the right mix of bright blue-greens with beach-themed walls.

There were the mini parties Colette and I would have in our cozy master bedroom with snacks and drinks and a good movie or Americal Idol. There were countless nights grilling pizza or steak tips or burgers (sometimes in a blizzard).

 There was the excitement of our new pool, with Chloe gleefully learning to swim there and the boys jumping around playing Sharks & Minnows or homemade games like the one we called “Rainwater.”

There New Year’s Eve family dance parties, counting down the minutes to the ball drop. 

There were the boys’ birthday and superbowl parties and sleepovers with friends,

 2 hurricanes including the excitement of a tree falling onto house, 
Hunter and Mitch learning to ride bikes in the cul-de-sac, 

walks down the hill and picking wild raspberries, fishing trips in the small lake behind the house, and so many beautiful and magical Christmas mornings.

Colette said it best the other day. She said of our old house, “that house was our baby.” Reflecting on the wisdom of her comment, I think I know what she meant. That house was fresh and new and ready to live when we bought it. A blank slate without a life of its own. But looking back now, I can see that it really did live. That house had life, not because of itself or anything unique about it, but because we lived.  That house at some unknown point along the 7-year way turned into a home because our family breathed our life into it. And now, like an old friend too tired to take the next leg of the journey with us, it now sits quietly resting, with some sadness, waiting to see what its next chapter will bring…

Goodbye old friend.

As I sit here writing this on the family room couch in the early morning quietness of our new house, my writing thoughts are subtly overlayed by the happy sounds of a joyful little 4 year old girl playing contently on the floor behind me. I can hear her talking to her little plastic princesses, ponies and duckies and occasionally interrupting me to show me the latest playdough monkey she created. I love this - love the sound of it and the feel of’s the sound and feel of life being breathed into our family’s new house. It’s the sound and feel of a house being transformed into a home.

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