A year ago, I wasn’t feeling much Christmas cheer. It was the shadow of upcoming change that darkened the season and prevented me from enjoying the holiday. For weeks, my focus had involved sorting through boxes that contained memories from our lives, deciding what needed donating, tossing or saving. Packing and getting things in order overshadowed decorating, shopping, gift wrapping and cooking. Christmas was hastily put together, an afterthought for me, because a bigger event loomed soon afterward. And for the first time in my life, the decorations came down and were packed away as soon as December 25th was history. It was as if a light switch had suddenly been flipped, and the holiday was forgotten and over. Time to move on. Time to face big change once again. And on December 30, 2015, I said goodbye to a house in Chicagoland that had been home to me for twelve years; a new place waited in Memphis, a new job for my husband.
It’s difficult to explain the emotions that get attached to a house. It is just a building, after all, and a dozen years don’t seem like many to some people. However, it’s the level of living and the significant events that made those years full and meaningful for me, and that’s what makes a house a home. The house saw both of our daughters graduate from high school and college; it was our home when one got married, and the other became engaged. Within those walls, I wrote books and saw three of them published; anniversaries and birthdays were planned and celebrated, holidays passed and parties were held, vacations enjoyed. The golden retriever that moved into that house with us lost her life to illness during those years; the sweet angel with fur that just moved south with us entered our lives as a puppy there, too. The tenure might have been short, but the content was full.
It was tough putting the house on the market. The “For Sale” sign was placed in the yard on January 2nd and five months later it sold. During that time, I never lost the emotional attachment but I could only endure one visit in order to check on it. Walking into that empty shell which had meant so much to me and seeing the condition it was in due to viewings was too much. It was a disappointing list of things that hit me full in the face when I opened the front door, and it looked tired; the disrespect shown by strangers for something that had been part of my life took its toll. I never went back. The day our house sold was bittersweet, but I know the new owners are making their own memories in it.
Those who have gone through it know this: moving is hard. Doing so across country means uprooting and leaving everything you’ve come to rely on behind you. The day to day things taken for granted have to be rethought anew, with much of it trial and error until the fit is right. In the past, the kids moved with us, easing the difficulty of that unknown, but this time was different. One daughter remains in Chicago, while the other lives in Colorado. Plans now have to be made to see both of them, and that’s tough on a parent.
And when the family moves because of one spouse’s job, that spouse has an immediate source of interaction to help with adjusting to a new place. While moving is usually difficult for children, they too have support from schools and new friends. It’s the other tag-along spouse/parent who is left dangling, trying to make things work while struggling to figure out his/her purpose that moving affects the most. You feel lost while trying to establish yourself; planting seeds to initiate new roots is timely and they don’t always take right away. It’s easy to feel like a failure.
The year has passed quickly, as they all seem to do nowadays. It saw our oldest get married in May; we took a trip to Scotland and England in October, and spent Thanksgiving with the youngest in Colorado. Family will arrive in a couple of days to share Christmas, which will be celebrated as usual. No rushing and the decorations won’t be taken down on the 26th. The latest manuscript is now in the hands of literary agents, and there are thoughts of the next book. I just organized a food drive that I hope becomes an annual event, and I’ve already participated in an author fair. My new house is starting to feel like home. You see those seeds are sprouting.
Take the time to reflect, and if you have the time, don’t rush. Enjoy the season with friends and family. I wish all of you the happiest of holidays; Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.