My children are now 17 and 15. A lot of years have passed but not much time. They’re two different things you know. One a line of hours, days and months. The other, the slow steady beat of one’s heart. That difference was illustrated to me today in a beautiful blue brush stroke. Both of my “babies” (and I still call them babies) are involved in theater in their high school. After rehearsal today, into my car piled not only two of my own but two of my friend’s and a new face. “Can we give my friend, Ciara, a ride home?” shouted Drew among the talking and laughing and slinging of backpacks into the “way back” and clicks of levers to release and slide seats to accommodate the masses. This new friend happened to live in our old neighborhood. “Of course!” I said as I made our way to first drop off our friend’s children and then head down the familiar roads we’ve traveled a thousand times.
“Can we show Ciara where we used to live?” begged Drew. An easy request since there is hardly ever a time when I’m in that neighborhood that I don’t drive by the “old house” even though it rarely ever changes. “Sure” I replied and steered my car down our old street into the cul-de-sac. “There it is, on the left, with the American flag on the porch” said my kids. And at first glance it was as it always is. White with a front porch that extends the length of the house, fence and arbor on the side, a curved pathway to the front door. But as I rounded the cul-de-sac I noticed something on the front porch. A blue hydrangea bush with a blue balloon tied to it. And not just any blue balloon- it was a congratulatory type balloon. One you might get in the hospital. One you might get in the hospital after having a baby. The new owners are new parents. There’s a new baby boy living at 721. And it made me SO happy.
We had met the new owners at the time of our closing. A sweet young couple. She liked to bake and took my Kitchen-Aid mixer on the counter at the time of the home showing as a sign that a fellow baker lived there and loved that kitchen. Since we only moved around the corner, we have seen them from time to time in the grocery store, at local (beer) festivals. I had always hoped they were filling that house with as much love as we put into it and it appears that they were. Almost 4 years later and they welcomed their new baby into the same house we brought our daughter and son home.
“I wonder if he’s sleeping in my room!” our daughter said. And then it struck me. The bones of the house are the same I’m sure unless they’ve undertaken some drastic “Fixer Upper” type home remodel. The kitchen table is different but it’s in the same place I assume. There are only two rooms in which to put the nursery and I bet they chose the room in the back of the house just like we did because the daytime sun wouldn’t filter in through the window and wake a napping baby. Their master bedroom, though decorated differently, is just 6 steps away from that bedroom. I remember being pregnant, having terrible morning sickness and realizing that if I ate first thing- even before I put my feet on the ground- that I would feel better. And I remember the morning I woke up, reached for the box of graham crackers I kept by my bedside and found ants crawling inside. I wonder if the new mom of 721 chucked crackers across her bedroom the way I had.
The thought of a new baby in that house made me smile. There had been so many fun times there raising our children. Interesting ones too. I wondered if they would sleep on the floor next to the crib to keep their child from crying until they were sure they were asleep and then spend the next hour slowly rolling to the door to make their great escape as to not wake the baby. Or if they would treasure as much as I did walking into their room in the morning to sleepy grins, bed head and outstretched arms that melted into the warmest hugs ever. I wondered if their boy would poop in his trash can the way mine did when we were potty training him. Regardless, the thought of someone else starting the cycle all over seemed right. But the fact that the house was old enough to have a second life meant that WE were older. That our KIDS were older. In fact our oldest is going to be a senior and gets no less than two brochures from colleges in the mail a day. Her new prom dress is hanging in the spare room just off the front hallway. The fact that they are rapidly approaching “adulthood” smacks me in the face daily. But tonight I indulged myself and took a walk down memory lane.
I remembered first steps and countless highchair meals and play dates. Christmas mornings and birthday parties. And so did my kids. Hours, days, months of mundane occurrences and special events. After we dropped their friend off Drew said, “I miss that house”. After asking what he missed he said the kitchen. “Why?” I prodded. “Because the last time I heard Papa’s voice was in the kitchen.” And then my Mary said the perfect thing, “Memories don’t stay in the house. You take them with you.” The slow, steady beat of your heart keeping them close and feeling like no time has passed. Just like it all happened yesterday.
Leaving that house on the day before we closed was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. We were all crying and I asked my very tired, very stressed out husband if we could take it all back. But it was the right thing to do. It was time to go and leave it to a new family to make new memories and welcome new babies. New life stages are happening here and they’re happening there. We’re all sleep deprived for different reasons. But thinking about the new life in that old house makes me glad I’m part of the circle. And very glad that the upstairs of 721 is used to puke. It’s going to happen.