Yesterday I drove by the old house.
It's the first time in many months since I have. And I was surprised by the range of emotions that I felt. My big white house, once my safe place and dream come true. That house turned quickly into a place that felt tainted. In every room, at every turn I felt hurtful, painful reminders. Memories and feelings of betrayal, aggression, frustration, sadness, arguments and eventually a family torn apart have separated me from many of the beautiful memories that I wish I could unravel.
I brought Mabel home to that house. I woke in the night and rocked her little body hour after hour in that house. I fell hard to the cold floor of that house, time and time again seeking answers; some I never did find. I chased babies, puppies and kittens through that house. I worshipped in that house, nurtured [and lost some] friendships in that house. Mabel did years of therapy in the middle of it's unheated living room, sprawled across the floor with some of the strongest women I've ever known. I received the diagnosis call in the garage of that house, standing next to the firewood that would eventually run out and leave us cold when my husband did the same. I researched and baked and danced and cried and ran and sang and loved and fought and grew and withered and planted and harvested and photographed and breathed and lived in that house.
Really, fully, truly lived there.
Every room was specially painted. It was delicately mine. My touch was in it all. I had worked and toiled to make that home truly ours. And I think when we left, everyone that we loved felt a loss. That front yard hosted more cookouts and get-togethers than I can count. I would mow it and plant flowers around it, knowing that it was the place where we would gather, all of us, for solitude. We spent so many spring and summer days in 4 white chairs on the driveway, chasing the shade when the heat overtook us. We watched kids run up and down, up and down. We extended quilts and welcomed neighbors. That house was the breeding ground for me and my beautiful village. We took our lives day by day, but always together and the core of those relationships were either built or grown in that big white house. For that alone, it will always be incredibly special to me.
The kids speak of the house often. We let them talk about their memories, remembering all the games they played, places they hid and things that make them happy to think about. I try hard to relate to their grief of not only the family they once knew but the place where that family dwelt, changed, and grew. I try hard to foster their memories while incorporating the beauty of the changes we have experienced along the way. Though hard, they have been really valuable to all of us.
The kids love our new house. We have been here for almost a year and it has been a quaint, quiet, simple home for us to transition into. In this new house, we have experienced a whole new sense of healing and changing. There are painful memories that stop me in my tracks at times. For instance, Braden won't let me play worship music here, not without crying. He remembers the worship that was played in our old house and I'm sure that the authenticity and memory of those moments is incredibly painful. Just recently, we broke through that a little and I caught him worshipping with his own guitar in the kitchen of the new house, which makes me proud. His heart is ok which helps me know that ultimately, he will be too.
Nora, as with everything else, has the hardest time. She misses many things about the old house. She misses her kitten that was born right after her dad left, a sort of healing for her heart. Both the mommy and baby kitten ran away while we were moving. They were outdoor cats and I'm sure they sensed the upcoming change. She misses her bedroom and the cuddling that happened there. She misses the sidewalk and the driveway and the tree in the backyard where she could climb and play. But she also has done a remarkable job of adjusting here. She has made neighborhood friends and seems to be the leader of the pack. She loves our new house as well, and I can tell that she has made sense of what this new family looks like and what it really means. For me, this little house has given me the chance to be more intimate in Nora's grief and I'm forever grateful for that.
So many painful memories from a home that was meant to grow us.
Not all bad memories, but all sprinkled with some sort of happy AND sad. They've been very simultaneous in my life in every other way, so why not in the place where we live? Why not?
That is life, after all.
Happy and sad. Changes and grief. Pain and joy.
It all goes beautifully hand in hand and as long as we are prepared for the depth of that, it somehow molds and makes us.
I don't know how many nights I held a crying baby in that house, or how many painful secrets were discovered. I don't know how much love was made or hate was unfolded. I don't know how many parties we threw or how many broken hearts walked through the door...
...but what I do know is how well that house held it all.
The door was opened right away with the promise that it would be 'a safe place to many,' and indeed it was. It was a beautiful, sheltered, strong fortress for the sometimes crazy changes and challenges that life threw at us during that season of our lives. I will always be thankful for the commitment of that home; for the very sturdy and strong manipulation of it's foundation because of us. That home was my refuge in many times of need, and though I remember it's floors as being cold and my departure as being the same-my heart has nothing but warmth for it's walls.
And now our family may be gearing up for yet another change, another transition and we are hopeful that it will bring us even more healing and even more happiness. I am grateful for each chapter of our lives because each one has such great significance to the overall story. The Author of it all has all things planned for good, and we are trusting this to be true.
Even with the bittersweet memories and even with the sting of change, I pray that we can look ahead with great anticipation of the goodness that is surely in store!
To big white houses, and all they hold; may the coming months create new memories inside walls that are meant for just that.