36608150Our first year of empty nest.

No boomerangers —– yet.

I’ve learned a lot this year. I’ve learned that a bowl of Cheerios makes a darn good dinner and that Wood Dickinson is darn good company. We’ve raised eight pretty good kids who stay in touch just to say hi, to see that we’re okay, not to say their checkbook is in the red. Well, mostly.

I’ve learned that I am gratified by the work I do as an Alternative Education teacher and couldn’t do this job with a houseful of kids. So I am grateful that I can come home from school, throw myself on the couch and watch a recorded Dr. Phil.

But something I wasn’t expecting was that the house felt so empty. And that thought led to, “Maybe this old house is too big for just the two of us…..” We tossed that around over the course of months……even going so far as to consider moving to a small town. Nowhere far. Just a stone’s throw away from the chaos of the city. We took an occasional glance at Realtor.com.

We called a realtor. Got a ballpark figure. Even drove around an area that we like across the state line, looking for that next house.

But boy oh boy, what neither one of us was expecting was cold feet. And I am talking frostbitten.

We both know why that happened. We stopped doing what we both do naturally. We used our brains, our reason and common sense instead of our hearts to do all that geographical consideration.

We bought the house we are in when our youngest was almost five. We were a fledgling family of six. We fell in love with the hardwood floors and the massive treed lot. It was all fine and good, but hard on the pocketbook. We replaced plumbing, those old lead pipes had to go. My kids thought it was normal to take a bath in orange-tinted water. Then two sump pumps installed after a disaster of monumental proportions. When that drain was installed, the jackhammer workers would come up from the basement covered in mud.   Several years later, we still hadn’t done one single thing to the house cosmetically that anyone could see. No wallpaper. No new lighting fixtures, no upgraded knobs on the kitchen cabinet doors. And who shows off a sump pump?

I am the poster child for nostalgia and sentimental stuff. And I am married to someone who is the same way. Which makes any decision like this ridiculous.

This house has so many memories —- Mary being so mad about being put in time-out on the fifth step that she spit on it and never, ever walked on that step again. It’s where Kathleen came home with her arm in a cast. Where everyone lost teeth. Eight mouths emptied out under this roof. It’s where hundreds of games of dress-up happened, sparkly shoes, costume jewelry, wigs, dresses, tutus and discarded beaded purses from Grandma.  Oh we did dress-up big at this house. Where Kenny asked Wood for Mary’s hand on our front porch. Where Andrew lost the door of his car backing out of the garage. Where the kids played on the swing set on hot summer days.

Where the kids, three of them, would stand on chairs at the kitchen sink and I would throw kitchen utensils and bubbles in the water and that would be good for two hours of play when I thought I was not going to survive one more February day cooped up in the house with no one taller than my knees! Where Andrew learned to ride his two-wheeler with his friend Joe. Where Elizabeth chipped her front tooth. Where Kathleen and Mary broke their collarbones. Where we have celebrated 28 Christmas’s. Cooked just as many Thanksgiving turkeys. Trick or treated the neighborhood. Where stomach flu and pink eye, and a plague of chicken pox were suffered through. It’s where two-year olds threw themselves on the floor in fits of rage and where teenagers slammed doors for the same reason.  Where teen cars have been handed down, with dents and scrapes. Where eight kids learned to drive, careening out of this driveway, Wood, white knuckled. Home to two cats, a snake, 2 gerbils who had 573 babies (Wood thought he was buying two males), a succession of hermit crabs and a turtle. Home to stuffed animals, Baby Owlie, Oatmeal, Marshmallow, Skippy, Abbie, Cricket, the Doctor and a Beaver. Where Matthew learned to mow….mowing around the hoses, bikes, whatever was in his way. Where Claire dreamed up that her middle name was “Annette”, telling everyone in her elementary school classroom that her grandfather had invented the “clarinet”. Where Meghan made the Varsity Volleyball team in her junior year and Margaret managed to “off” just about every hermit crab she ever had. So many birthday parties, small celebrations, individual kid-victories. 47 photo albums. Hundreds of games of Candy Land, lost mittens, lost library books.  Thousands of bedtime stories.  Four of the eight kids conceived here.  So many good conversations with kids, sitting at the bottom of our bed, solving a plethora of problems.

I used to say that I was coming out of this house feet first. Might be. Maybe the right house will surface. But I do know that we will lead this charge with our hearts. The heart isn’t impulsive and feels no need to hurry. Hurry to get the sign in the yard, hurry to find a new place to lay our heads. For now, we’re not ready to leave this old house. Because this old house isn’t just any old house.  And I am not too sure that these tangible memories are for sale anyway.