This picture is of the house I (mostly) grew up in. To be honest with you, because I like you, I will tell you that I can't bring myself to look at this picture too carefully or for too long. This picture is of our house in Ohio in 2012 when my parents, rather accidentally, sold their house in one day. We all thought we'd have a bit more time to say good bye to all of its windows, doors and corners.
I am an only child and so the house was my very own playground. The living room, my first stage. The dining room is where we would gather every year for Christmas dinners with friends. And my bedroom. My bedroom had light pink walls and a fabulous amount of closets. It was always with pride that I would walk guests into the first closet that also had a door to ANOTHER closet. I was not the coolest of kids but I thought this closet within a closet would definitely move me up in the ranks of popularity in my sixth grade class.
You can imagine how that went. Go on. It did not.
The backyard, flat as a corn field and at first without trees or ivy, was a playground for anyone with a good imagination. There was a lot of construction around us in the early days so you could sneak next door and run through houses unfinished and climb on the cinder blocks inevitably stacked in anticipation of a new front porch or back deck.
Old quilts were spread out in the backyard for picnics. Bikes were left on their sides, unattended in the driveway. A basketball hoop awaited a game of "HORSE." I often competed against myself and won.
Over the years, my folks planted trees and shrubs and flowers and eventually, the backyard became a shady haven filled with bird calls, clever squirrels eating out of the feeders, and the occasional duck mama with her brood waddling behind her.
In 2012, when the house sold, it was hard to imagine why my folks decided it was time to move on. I had left years ago, but still treasured the Ohio house as home. But then.
I did the same thing.
In 2013, I left my apartment on the upper west side to move in with my now husband who lived in Brooklyn. A few months later as, I kid you not, I walked him into the spare room to show him I had finally unpacked the final box, we did a small celebratory dance and he told me we were going to have to move to New Jersey so he could be closer to school. Together, we packed our boxes and moved into the second floor of a restored Victorian house. We were so excited to have a bit more space and to get to say things like, "The bathroom is down the hall." Until then, bathrooms had always been located fairly close to the kitchen table. Which was fun.
A couple of years later, we found a little house. Our little house. We bid on it. We bought it. We couldn't believe we were the kind of people who owned land. I had endless fantasies of gardens, garden parties, and copper fire pits.
This is the house we came home to after our wedding in Brooklyn. My new husband carried me over the threshold and into our new life as husband and wife. We commuted to the city for work. We hosted a few small dinner parties, we made our own old-fashioneds, we got another dog who, I am not kidding you, just put her paws up onto my lap as though she knows I'm writing about her, and gave me a kiss! We spent our Sunday nights watching Game of Thrones and anytime there was a snow storm, our neighbors hosted pancake parties.
And then one July day last year, we decided to stay at a small B&B in Brooklyn so we could attend a Fleet Foxes concert in Prospect Park. We checked in. Michael went for a run. I spent that time reading and looking out the window which had a view of the park. We went to dinner and the concert and then to a bar and then we walked 'home,' unconcerned about train schedules.
We loved our house and we loved that we were putting down roots, but we learned very quickly that we wanted to come back to the city. We missed it. We missed New York City and all her beauty and all her noise. Yes, we came back for the noise.
Leaving our house for the final time in December last year sucked. It hurt from the inside out and if I'd been made to wait a minute longer in the yard before we got in the car, I knew I would scream. It was so painful. Earlier that morning, we deconstructed my dried up wedding bouquet and piece by piece, spread it around the yard as unrecognized reminders that we once lived in this castle.
And today, we are set up in a small apartment in Brooklyn. We have half the amount of space, but our rooms are filled with light and we quickly found our favorite haunts. I love it here. My computer sits in a window where I am able to watch people walk by with their groceries and their dogs and across the street, I'm able to see the stray cat who lives in a box and is forever surrounded by open tins of cat food.
Still, I miss our house, usually at night when I'm falling asleep. Sometimes I spend my dreams there. Sometimes I go back to the house in Ohio. I guess I'm lucky to have loved these homes so dearly that they have stayed with me so much so that I am able to visit them at night. They are my castles that have witnessed the passage of time, life's major events, heartbreaks small and large. While we no longer measure our heights pressed up against a wall with a book on our head, I know that in Ohio, under layers of paint, those small marks still exist.