I never intended this house to be our “forever house.” I never even really intended to have a “forever house” at all. My parents moved into our Hell’s Kitchen apartment when I was two years old, and they live there still, so you’d think I’d have some visceral desire for permanence – but I’ve had many apartments, and many houses, and all of them have felt, to a greater or lesser extent, like home. I put up the pictures that I’ve carted with me back and forth across the country over and over again, and drape my favorite throw blanket over a bed, and all of a sudden even a temporary corporate rental isn’t just “where I’m staying”…it’s where I live.
When we decided to move to San Jose for Kendrick’s new job, I knew so little about the area that I told people I was headed to San Francisco – as opposed to a major city that may be adjacent to San Francisco, but most certainly is not a part of it – and people on the Internet made fun of me. I’d say it was terrifying moving to a place that I knew so little about, and that was so far away from my friends and my parents, but it wasn’t, not especially. Because whatever was going to happen, we were going to be together. And so at least there’d be that.
So I flew out to California with my four-year-old son to look for a house, and we both got viral gastroenteritis and ended up in the hospital, and so we did not find a house on that trip. I did eventually find a house, though, thanks to a broker who was willing to take me on countless virtual FaceTime tours of available properties while I sat on my couch in New York. We bought the house we live in now having never actually stepped foot inside it. I thought it was fine, but probably not *perfect,* but I also thought it didn’t really matter, because it’s not like we couldn’t move if we wanted to one day.
But then I fell in love with where we live. I made friends – great ones. So did my kids. I sat in my hammock in the evenings and waved to neighbors I knew by name while they walked their dogs. I looked forward to chatting with the checkout lady at Safeway; she has a granddaughter who’s the same age as my daughter, and always has something sweet to say. I settled in, and settled down. I renovated and renovated and renovated, making every little corner precisely what I wanted it to be, because for maybe the first time ever, I felt like this might be my place. Still, we talked about moving somewhere cheaper. Santa Fe. Asheville.
I want to stay, I told Kendrick.
Today our house is being photographed, and tomorrow it goes on the market. I have found a sweet little house in the mountains just outside of LA that I’m putting an offer on, and if it ends up getting accepted, I will very soon be loading my things and my children and my cats and one of my dogs – Kendrick has Virgil – into a truck, and driving 300 miles south to begin a new life.
Last night I stayed up until midnight sealing the tile in the hallway bathroom, and painting the walls of the master bathroom. I’ve been working on these rooms for six months, sourcing the perfect barnwood accents, picking out drawer pulls and fixtures and paint colors that will now be someone else’s to enjoy. Or tear down. I’ve never even taken a shower in the new bathroom. The pipes will only be hooked up a day or two before the open house, so chances are I never will.
I don’t know who the new owners will be, or what they’ll do with this house. Maybe they’ll like what I’ve done; maybe they’ll want to take it all out and start over. I don’t begrudge them that; I’m excited for them. I want them to love this house, because even though I didn’t think much of it way back when, I love it very, very much now.
I keep picturing myself driving up to the new house, but the vision is all mixed up with my memories of when we drove up to this one. Our son’s toys pouring out of the car door; me running from rosebush to pepper plant to orange tree; our daughter grinning from where we plopped her down on the floor with a bunch of bubble wrap to pop. And Kendrick, putting together a crib, then – much later – walking through our dark, quiet new home with a video camera, finding me so that he could tell me he loved me.
When people talk about *why* they get married, one of the big themes that I’ve heard come up over and over is something about “bearing witness.” Like your life isn’t really a life unless there’s someone else to say that happened; I know because I was there, too. I’ve always thought to myself how that idea was nice in theory, but really kind of silly – I mean, I had my life way before Kendrick, and way before my children, and it is richer now in many ways, but it’s still my own – and yet I can hardly bear the idea of walking into a new house without someone walking in next to me. Dragging mattresses into the bedrooms for our first night there, all by myself. Shooting hopeful glances at neighbors, searching for someone I can sit on the porch with and talk to after the kids fall asleep.
I want someone there with me.
I don’t want to do this alone.
But I had a life before, and during, and now I will have one after. I’ll change. Maybe even evolve. And I’ll bear witness to my own beautiful little life, and somehow, someday, that will be enough.