Last Friday was a big day. A day I wouldn’t have fathomed 1,000 days ago. It was a day where we walked away from what, just a few short years ago, we thought was our future.
Last Friday my husband and I closed on the sale of our home in Michigan.
It was a home nine years in the making. A dream that started on twice weekly trips to my therapist’s office. The nervous breakdown was so bad my husband had to drive me the 60 miles to and from each appointment. There was never much talking on those rides. Mostly just me staring blankly out the side window, oftentimes lulled to sleep by the familiarity of the scenery lining the highway.
But then we would exit, make a few turns, and in a matter of minutes, I would feel something. A tug in my heart. A desire to live. A desire to live in a place like this. A town. With sidewalks. And tree-lined streets. And little shops and cafés. And parks and playgrounds. And houses that didn’t all look the same. Houses with stories and history. Houses built to look like they had stories and history. Houses that were out of our reach.
In those few minutes we drove through town the silence that was suffocating us would evaporate and we would talk. About houses we loved. And what it would be like to live there. About what it would be like to raise the child growing inside my belly there. Some trips, we would get excited by the “For Sale” sign in front of a house that looked just small enough, or just run down enough, to maybe be ours. I would jump out of the car as my husband pulled up to the curb and race to grab an information flyer from the “Take One” box attached to the sign, never peeking at the secrets it held until back in the safety of my seat. But it wasn’t to be. Not then at least.
However, as our trips wore on, we made a commitment. One day we would live here. And I started to heal. And a future seemed possible. For the next six years we lived, and raised our son, and worked, and moved, and gave birth to another son. We took steps forward, and we took steps backward. We made decisions that, at times, seemed crazy and irrational. But we knew in our guts, the twisted path we were on was taking us somewhere. It was getting us closer. In the middle of it all, the economy collapsed, and suddenly, the dream that was out of reach, wasn’t any longer. The crisis that closed doors for so many, somehow opened a door for us. The path was straight and the home of our dreams was at the end of it.
We moved in June 2010. It was the house our boys were going to leave for college. It was our forever home. We lived the fantasy that had hatched in our hearts and minds so many years before. We spent our evenings and weekends walking “downtown” for family dinner at a sidewalk café, followed by a stop for ice cream, before walking to splash in the fountain at a nearby park. I occupied my free time browsing decorating magazines and websites and shopping for the perfect furniture and accessories to fill our space. We rode our bikes to a nearby market when short on ingredients for dinner or to another nearby park for twilight movies. Every Sunday morning started with a walk to grab breakfast and a coffee before heading to the local farmers’ market. We celebrated our oldest son’s 6th birthday with a skating party at the outdoor ice rink just down the street and later opened our home to family and friends warming their bodies and souls with hot chocolate, laughter and celebration.
It was peaceful and serene and storybook perfect, yet in spite of that (or maybe because of that), I was restless.
Maybe that’s why when my husband came to me just nine months after moving in to explain that his employer wanted him to move to NYC, I didn’t look at him like he was crazy or dig my heels in and refuse. We only had to be there for two years. After that we could decide. We could rent our house and it would be waiting for us upon our return.
So with the thought of a grand, but temporary, adventure in mind we packed up what we could fit in an 850SF apartment and said see you later to our sparkling new home (and most of the stuff that was in it).
We lived at once like giddy tourists and homesick schoolchildren at their first trip to sleep away camp, equally in love with and incredibly uncomfortable with our surroundings. We started to find ourselves among the fear of losing ourselves. We felt joy, and terror, and strength, and loneliness, and inspiration. We felt God.
Neither of us was ever big on religion or church or God, and yet, there He was. As we started to look back with open eyes on the journey that brought us to this place, his fingerprints were everywhere. We were challenged.
As husband and wife.
At the end of two years, we have no idea where we are headed next. We just knew we couldn’t come back. Not yet, at least. We have no plan, other than to stay where we are for the time being and keep working.
At being better individuals.
At being a better husband and wife.
At being better parents.
At being better children.
At being better siblings.
At being better friends.
At being better neighbors.
Because as much as we plan and construct and imagine what our perfect life will look like, we are not in control.