In 1998, my son Nicholas attended the second grade. He loved playing Olly Olly Oxen Free with a posse of neighborhood kids. Our daughter Erin was in third grade. She and the little girl who lived next door, Morgan Cotter, were best friends. She wore only dresses and climbed over the back fence to play with Morgan because she wasn’t allowed to go out front alone. Which led to many ripped dresses.
The Cotters moved first. The neighborhood deteriorated more quickly than a person would think possible. Soon after we went house hunting to buy our first house. We were on our way to look at lots to build a home, when we drove past a new subdivision off Bandera Road and 1604. People who know the area are cringing, but back then it was wide open. No shopping center, no movie theater, no mega-H.E.B., and Helotes was still a sleepy little town with character.
When we got out of the car, Erin surveyed the front yard and asked, “What are those sticks in the ground.”
“Those are trees,” Tim responded.
The house looked beautiful. And big. And more than we could afford. As it happens, the woman who had it built, bailed on closing day. It was priced to sale for a family who’d never been homeowners before. A few weeks later we moved into the nicest house I’d ever lived in.
Fast forward twenty years. We’re moving on. If all goes well at the closing later this week, Tim and I will move to a new-to-us-house in the country. We’re empty nesters no longer in need of all those bedrooms. Because of my mobility issues, we need a one-story home. They tell me this two-story brick and siding house is full of outdated amenities, appliances, and fixtures that will be renovated by the house flippers who bought it. But all I see are memories—the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly:
Erin and Nicholas help Tim plant two trees in the back yard. One is now a full-sized red maple that shades the back of the house. The other had to be cut down earlier this year when it succumbed to some strange disease.
Erin and Nicholas use nylon sleeping bags to slide down the stairs. Nicholas chasing Erin through the kitchen, skidding on the linoleum, and smashing through a cabinet door.
I look out the windows to the backyard and Tim’s planting yellow bells, Pride of Barbados, lantanas, and verbenas in a color native plant scape. Or barbecuing fajitas in December.
We bake and frost cut-out sugar cookies every Christmas Eve. Sometimes it was a Hallmark movie moment. One time I sat on the stairs crying because they wouldn’t quit fighting until they apologized and promised to do better. We had plenty of moments like that in this house, but who needs a movie reel with those less-than-stellar memories to spoil a feel-good moment?
We read “The Night Before Christmas” and put cookies on a plate next to a glass of milk for Santa. Tim blares Christmas music to wake the kids up the next day so they could run down the stairs and open presents.
We watch the kids rollerblade in the cul-de-sac on Christmas morning after we opened presents and ate chocolate chip pancakes. Then we settle onto the couch or carpet and watch our new movies—including “Blair Witch Project.”
I play basketball with Nicholas in the driveway and volleyball with Erin in the street in front of the house.
We pull up to the curb in Erin’s first car—an old Saturn owned by gypsies who fed us fish. True story. I teach Nicholas to drive in Stinson Elementary School parking lot.
I write my first novel. I sell my first novel. I write a bunch more. Nicholas stands on the stairs yelling “Kelly” to get my attention as I write.
Erin’s first boyfriend. Nicholas brings home the young woman he then marries.
I sit on the couch, folding towels, with little grandbaby Brooklyn sleeping next to me. I read books to her. We watch the CMA awards together.
The PLS diagnosis. The cancer diagnosis. Tim’s quadruple bypass surgery.
If the walls could talk. Thank goodness, they can’t.
I’ve never been one to become attached to material things. One of five kids, I grew up in a two-bedroom rental. My parents didn’t own their first home until I was a senior in high school. I lived in apartments for ten years before marrying. I look around and I like this house, but what I like more are the vivid memories of our kids that fill every room carpet to ceiling. The stains on the carpet where Erin spilled a soda and fingernail polish. The dangling threads of carpet under the door to her bedroom where Barry the cat dug them up in his neurotic desire to leave her room. The blue paint Nicholas picked out for their bathroom.
Twenty years of memories remind me that it’s not the house I’ll miss. It’s the time spent with my family. This is simply the empty nest. The family and the memories go with me. They are inscribed on my heart and soul.
Tim and I will make new memories in what we’re calling our ranch house in the country in this new season in our lives. We’ll have a guest room where the kids and the grandkids will stay. I can’t wait to see what holiday fun we’ll have there. What marks, like inscriptions, they’ll leave there. A house isn’t a home. Family is.
Please share with me some of your favorite “house” memories and tips for making moving less painful!
Oh Kelly, bittersweet memories for sure. I’m so happy for you two my friend. The first house I remember living in was in town. A big two story stucco house that had a lot of oak finishes,, built ins and a big fireplace with mantle. Many hours of playing tag, mother may I, red devil from dusk to dawn with the neighborhood kids. Ah, and the year I got my first “girl” bike! We then moved to the farm (too many siblings for the other house) and found new adventures. Here’s to creating new memories in this stage of our lives.
Thanks, Darlene. It’ll be fun. I can’t wait to have the grandkids play in the new yard!
Like you, we moved and downsized. Our move was last year and happily all the boxes are gone and we are now able to enjoy our new home that we love.
We had lived in our old house for 28 years with tons of good memories as well as bad. It was the first home we had in the country where I thought I’d never live and now wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. The house held all the special memories of birthdays and holidays as well as ice storms with 9 days with no utilities at all and Mom’s hospital bed in the living room while dealing with caring for someone with Alzheimer.
After Mom’s passing, there was nothing and no one in our little piece of southwest Arkansas for us to stay any longer. We had taken many, many trips to the Ozark Mountains in the northern part of the state and loved it longing to live there. On a visit up we both had the same thought – wouldn’t it be awesome to live here. We decided then to pray about it and if it was meant to be things would work out. After much searching, we found the perfect piece of property. It was a little over 7 acres but actually less to maintain than we had where we were living then. It was on a main road so no gravel or dirt roads to contend with. It was outside the city limits with no immediate neighbors for privacy, but only a little over 2 miles to the hospital and less than 5 miles from any place we would need to go. The exciting part is it has historical significance having been place by the highway department of the historical register. There is a large stone wall from the civil war era across both the front and back of the property. There was also 2 huge stone fireplaces still standing from the originial 1853 home that had been restored to be properly used for modern times – fire safe. We knew we had found where we needed to be.
Then we began the process of finding a builder when we were directed to a young Mennonite man who along with his brothers took on 2 or 3 homes to build each year. Another pray answered – finding a builder we could trust and that would go good work to fulfill or dreams on paper while we were hundreds of miles away.
Once the land and builder were found, then realization hit that we were moving. Could we sell our home? What were we going to do with all this “stuff”? Again, we prayed. Not only did the house sell, it sold to the first person that looked at it AND they requested extra time of 2 months before closing so that they could finish up with selling their home. A blessing for sure because with medical problems, I could only move so fast and work so long before I could do no more. That extra time gave us the time we needed to get it all done before we had to be moved out. Timing worked to where we actually only had to move once – into our new home – and not like we thought we would have to do by moving into an apartment with stuff in storage meaning moving twice.
We downsized to a one bedroom from a three bedroom. Now we only have one huge closet where before we had 4 closets and a huge shed. We had acquired stuff from not only my parents but my grandparents through my parents as well. We finally realized that we weren’t obligated to keep things of others just because they owned them. Unless they were special to us even if by having been theirs, then it had to go. Again amazingly we had no problem disposing of the excess through sells or giving it away to someone that could use and appreciate it. Even then, we found we still had too much and after moving it to the new home, there was a lot that we found we didn’t need after having been boxed up for some time.
We love our location and love our new home. Our prayers were answered and we are where we are suppose to be. May God bless you by making your move as stress free as it can be and events work as smoothly as they did for us. May the new home bring new adventures and new memories for your family and you.
As for memories of the old home, I think the ones I treasure the most are of the many Christmas’ there. Although our only child, Jenet, had already died before we moved in, it was her joy of Christmas and the many ornaments of hers on the tree that brought back all the wonderful memories of Christmas past with here that I loved. Another precious memory was the last night my Mom was alive. As I said before, she had Alzheimer. The night before she died she not only recognized my husband, our little furbaby and me, but she smiled and told each of us that she loved us as we tucked her in and said good night. By the next morning she had gone to her heavenly home, but she left us with a wonderful memory of love.
Both houses are beautiful – you and your family are truly blessed. You will make many Precious Memories in your new house. God bless you!
Wonderful memories, Kay. We too are figuring out how to downsize and learning that not every “memento” has to be saved. I don’t want my kids to have to go through stuff and get rid of it when I should’ve done it. This property is a little less than an acre. It is pitch black out there a night and you can see the stars in the sky and hear the frogs crock. I know we’ll make great new memories in this new season!
Raquel M Martinez
I owned three houses but moved seven times as an adult, so I left memories scattered everywhere. What made it easier for me was that I took the kids with me each time until the last house we all lived in together before the three married and went off to create their own homes. I only thing I regretted when I sold my last house ten years ago was the door trim where I marked how fast they each were growing during their adolescence. I started the same in this home with HB but marking the grandchildren’s growth. Next to the mark is their initials and age. God bless your new home. On to another adventure!
What a blessing to have your grandchildren close. Cherish those moments and those marks on the door trim!
You learn over the years not to become attached to things–to include memories. My parents bought a house in NJ. I grew up in this house. I left this house as an adult in 1975 and never looked back. The phone call came in 1994 from my father–the sole occupant of my childhood home. “You have to come over–I have something for you.” My childhood house was being condemned. Upkeep was too difficult for my father. I almost saw my childhood home sagging in the street. My father handed me a shopping bag. He was so proud that he saved my high school yearbook. I started to cry and realized that everything I was saving for “safe keeping” no longer existed. The memories of Union Avenue are no more. My father is deceased. My mother is deceased. I’ve made important memories in my condo–memories that I call mine and mine alone. On the coffee table is my high school yearbook–which I thumb thru from time to time. I have exactly one picture from my adolescence–it’s in this high school yearbook. The 16 year old me is smiling next to people I haven’t seen in 46 years. My past is a closed book. I cherish my present life in my present home with my present cat.
I’m so sorry, Natalie. I didn’t see this until now. For some reason the program stopped notifying me when new comments are left. I’m sorry you lost those memories, but you keep them in your heart. Life can be so hard. I’d like to forget a lot of things from my childhood and I can’t. We don’t get to hang on to only the good memories, unfortunately. Thank goodness, you have those yearbooks. I’m so glad you’re happy with your life now and your sweet cat!
I know how you feel. Each time we move, I always tell my husband that I don’t want to move again. But, God has different plans. I take lots of photos inside and outside to remind us of special times in each home.
I hope this will be our last move, but I also know God may have different plans. New adventures await us!
Memories is what make a house a home. I’ve been in my home 35++ years but the memories will go with me when I move in this life or to my heavenly home.
Blessings as you transition to your new home–one that will be filled with new memories, love, easy care and so much more. Thank you for sharing, Kelly.
Have a blessed and Merry Christmas season with your lovely family and a new addition in the new year.
Thank you so much, Marilyn. I have you have a wonderful Merry Christmas as well with your family!
Congratulations on your move. It sure is bittersweet to leave a home with so many memories, but how blessed you’ve been to stay in the same place all that time. We’ve always improved our life with our moves, but I think we have moved nine times in our 45 years of marriage. And the memories of each home are what remain, just as you were saying.
Thank you, Connie. We moved several times before we bought our first home so I consider myself blessed to have lived in one place so long. In today’s society, people tend to move a lot!
Congratulations on your move to your new home. I have to say, a person doesn’t realize, until they move, how many things you have accumulated throughout the years. If you packed in an organized manner, then that is my best advice!! It makes things so much easier. Your family will be able to make wonderful new memories in your new home, so that is great. It’s like a new adventure…Wishing you and your family the best in your new home!!(also, I just had to say, that the pictures you shared of memories in your old home were very sweet. And I’ve got to say that your daughter Erin, looks just like you. Beautiful!! Your entire family is. God Bless!!
Thank you for your kind words!