Why is moving so hard?
I’m not talking about packing boxes and sorting your forks and spoons and getting the courage to part with that coat from 1986 you love so much. I’m talking about the memories you make. I’ve lived in many houses and apartments. Some I don’t remember, some I think of fondly, but 272 Midland Avenue is the one I think I’ll remember the most….
I moved out of NYC in 2006, into a gorgeous 1927 Georgian Colonial. 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, lots of money to spare. The booming real estate market was crazy in NYC, and the profits enabled me to renovate the bathrooms, outfit a new kitchen and drive a Range Rover around town. But my beautiful home was just a band-aid for an ailing marriage. The pool, the rose garden, the cars…there was nothing I could do to save it, and soon I found myself in the role of single mom.
My new house was known around town as “The brown house.” And boy, was it brown. Light brown. With dark brown trim. The inside had brown walls and a brown fireplace, and dreary wallpaper that looked like maybe at one time it had been cheery, but now it was just…brown. The kitchen floor was covered in aging linoleum. The garden was full of weeds. The rooms throughout the house ached of age and neglect. Friends and family came and couldn’t hide their looks of despair. Yes, it was all a bit downhill. Even my children hated the place. My daughter dubbed it “Home, Horrible Home.” They didn’t see what I saw. It was all mine.
The movers dumped boxes in my living room and in my backyard in the middle of a freezing cold January afternoon. Without help, it took me ages to unpack them. Some weeks there were boxes covered in snow outside my window. I unpacked and painted. I frequented flea markets. I tore clippings out of magazines. I ran my store. I planned and I schemed. We ate a lot of pizza. Some nights I danced around the house with a bottle of wine, giddy with my newfound freedom. Other nights I sobbed, as I wondered what on earth I had gotten into, especially when I couldn’t fix a TV, a computer broke, or a toilet wouldn’t flush. Slowly, however, the house began to take shape.
Somewhere in the midst of all of the chaos, I found Ian. We daydreamed about having a baby, and eventually we were blessed with Eliza. The spare room became a nursery. As my pregnancy went on and I became more and more sick, I spent most afternoons in the den watching episodes of the Dr. Phil show. There were the nights my husband spent pacing the floors, wondering if I would ever return home as I lay in the ICU, suffering from acute liver failure after delivering our baby 2 months early. There was the morning I sat on the front porch when my doctor confirmed that there was indeed cancer raging within my liver. There were the days I couldn’t get out of bed, sick from chemotherapy. We finally brought home our 5-lb. baby girl after a month-long stay in the NICU. There were Christmas trees and Easter egg hunts here. There were birthday parties and trick-or-treaters. Eliza slept in the stroller while I planted flowers in the summer. The warm sunroom became a favorite spot while Maddie and I waited for her 7 am school bus during the bleak winters.
I get a lump in my throat as my eyes scan the rooms and I take an inventory of all of my days here. There’s the hydrangea I planted that never really blooms well. It gets too much shade and not enough sun.The floors creak on the second floor staircase and the air conditioner is too noisy on the third floor. But I love the smell of the garden in the morning. I love hearing the train when it starts running at 5:30 am. I love the rush of cars as parents drive their kids to school. I’ll miss the coffee at Bluestone Coffee Company in Watchung Plaza. I’ll miss the squirrel who broke into my bird feeder every summer. I’ll miss the buds that appear in April outside the kitchen window and turn from pink to green, and then to red, before they quietly flutter from their branches. I’ll miss my street with its shady oak trees, and the seasonal flowers that begin with tulips, then peonies, lilies, black-eyed Susans, and finally end with mums and pumpkins.
Change is a good thing. I really became who I am in this house. Being on my own was hard. But I did it. We did it. Ian’s arrival turned my house into a home. Eliza’s arrival made us all a family. People say to me “Wow…I wish I could move to California.” Well, what are you waiting for? Make a change. Be brave. You only get one chance, one life. Move on. Cry a little, pack your bags. And go.