Piece by Piece

Boxes line the floor of our basement office, each holding a fraction of the seemingly endless number of books we need to pack. I’ve started taking things off the wall by my desk, In to the box goes pictures and race bibs and drawings from the little monkey. All of the bits of paper ephemera I hoped would inspire me as I worked at that desk. Slowly the house is making the transition from where we live to where we used to live.

In a week we’ll be gone.

Mr. Monkey says he won’t miss this house at all, and I think he’s right. This house for him has been the big yard he hated to mow and the electrical system that doesn’t quite work in the kitchen and the A/C that doesn’t actually work anywhere. It was also, of course, the house where we brought the baby girl home from the hospital and where she learned to walk. The boy got his first bunk bed here and discovered he loved playing frisbee in the yard. Mr. Monkey will take those memories with him and probably not give this house a backward glance.

I don’t know if I’ll miss the house. I’m excited about the new house. It is in the same neighborhood as my best friend. There are kids in this neighborhood, which will be a pleasant change from our current not-so-friendly cast of senior citizens who don’t like us because we don’t demonstrate the same unwavering commitment to yard work that they do. The house itself is old (1917) and interesting and, I think, probably better laid out than the one we are in now. Mr. Monkey and I will each get our own office, which will be amazing and necessary now that I am in the thick of grad school.

So, all good things, right?

Yes, and yet..

I feel a sense of something like embarrassment about the move. The house we’re moving to doesn’t look as nice from the outside as our current one. Our new neighborhood isn’t worse but it is a little older, a little less polished in some spots. I am, at some level, a bit disappointed in myself that I am going to be 35 in August and am still unable for reasons financial and otherwise to commit to buying a house, so we’re renting again. This is house number six in eight years of marriage. I yearn to be settled (and also not, depending on the day) but I know that the new house is also not our forever home.

Yesterday I was driving home from the store and both kids fell asleep in the car. Not wanting to wake them, I drove around for a while, slowly cruising the nicest neighborhoods in town, admiring the houses and yards and wondering about the people who live inside. I felt a sense of yearning, not for any particular house, but for the idea of owning one of these big houses, of having people come over for the first time and thinking “wow, nice house”,

I realized as I kept driving that I was using the houses as a kind of shorthand. That if I had a big house in the right neighborhood that it would be a symbol that I was, in some fundamental way, “okay”. A symbol that I’m not poor anymore, that I’ve made the right financial decisions, that I’m smart and hardworking enough to afford that house on that block.

The truth is that we’ve made some good financial decisions and we’ve made mistakes. I work hard but still have student loans to pay and probably spend more at Target in any given month than I need to. We’re not ready to buy a house and we don’t know where we’ll be in five years and that is okay. The only one judging us here is me. Tonight I’ll start packing my winter clothes away and trying to sneak some toys into the Goodwill box while the kids sleep.

Soon we will be gone.

Soon we will be home (again).

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