We knew that this day would come.
It just came a lot sooner than either of us ever expected.
The original plan was to live in our town home for the next five to ten years, have a kid or two, and move on to a bigger, more functional house to continue raising our ever-growing family. Of course, the original plan went out the window when “a kid or two” became three all at once, causing us to come up with our new plan of “move, sell, build”. Five to ten years became five to ten months, which has now became five to ten weeks.
We have already begun part one, which has been the transitioning of the family into the Florer’s abode. The extra sets of hands has been a God-send. Unfortunately, in order to sell our house and build a new one, we first have to get the rest of our personal effects out. No longer able to delay the inevitable, Missy and I have finally started to make the last big push towards emptying our townhouse in Urbandale.
So after spending the past few weekends boxing up and cleaning out the house on Greenbelt Drive, we have reached the following two conclusions:
- Moving sucks.
- The two of us have accumulated more “stuff” in our four years of living together than most people do in their entire lives.
We still have a long way to go, but we’ve made some substantial progress on getting the place emptied. While it feels good to be moving forward into this new stage in life, and leaving the comfort and familiarity of our previous life has been a lot harder on both Missy and I than we ever could have imagined.
I feel a bit silly getting nostalgic about a place I’ve only owned for four years (and since we haven’t sold it yet, still own). You could also argue that this new stage in life began way back when we first found out that we were expecting, so I should have seen this coming. Yet walking through the empty rooms, and seeing the vacant cupboards and bare walls have finally made it real; made it tangible.
Also, if you’re keeping track, this is the third move within the past year that we have both physically and emotionally been involved with. First, my mom moved out of 932 Oak Hill Ave. last summer now that all “us kids” have grown up and moved on. Second, my dad moved out of his place last December (the house Missy and I have grown accustomed to staying in during each visit back to Hagerstown) for a more functional space for himself and Peg.
And now us.
It’s just a house.
But at the same time, it feels like more. After packing up my life in Maryland and moving half way across the country, it was my first permanent residence in the state of Iowa. My first place, out on my own; out in the real world (aside from my in-laws house, in which I stayed for the first six months). It soon became Missy’s home too; we were married just three short months after I signed on the dotted mortgage paper line.
At first, just having our own space was good enough. Painting the walls was an ongoing process…a process that I didn’t care for all too much, but thankfully one that Missy didn’t seem to mind. The red kitchen walls took what must have been 20 coats before we reached a tolerable hue; the peanut-butter living room and burnt orange halls were a testament to just how unique our pallet was. Some time later I arrived home from work to find that Missy had cleared out the bedroom and began paint it dark-chocolate brown. We spent two nights downstairs on an air mattress before the fumes subsided.
We discovered together here that a house is never a finished product, but rather always an ongoing experiment. From continuously finding new picture frames, wall hangings, and window shades, to rearranging the furniture in a way that fit our latest needs, the house was constantly a work in progress. The first couch we bought didn’t fit up the stairs and took out a large chunk of the wall on its way back out. The living room was never completely furnished until we first invited over a dozen or so friends and realized that we were still using Missy’s dorm furniture…and that was only two years ago.
Although we didn’t technically “own” the yard, we were proud of the tree that sat directly in front of our windows. That first summer we spent together in the townhouse, the lawn sprinkler system broke, leaving our entire side of the street with brown, parched lawns. At night I would fill up a 5-gallon bucket with water and soak the area around the tree so that it wouldn’t dry up as well. Meanwhile, Missy was spiking the ground with Miracle Grow darts. Our efforts were clearly worth it as we now have the best looking tree on the block.
Yet there are things that are a little easier than others to leave behind…
Like the neighborhood. Growing up on the farm, Missy never had neighbors in such close proximity before she moved in with me, and I don’t think she ever fully got used to the idea. It wasn’t all that bad, but everyone pretty much kept to themselves. The majority of the residents are young, but unmarried and like to party. Some nights, arguments would spill out onto the street and end only after the cops were called to the scene (OK, so that only happened once), and other nights the folks across the alley wouldn’t get home until three or four in the morning (and they weren’t too quiet about it). Two of our near-by neighbors have had their houses foreclosed upon, and while the new residents seem like pretty nice people, we never really had the chance to get to know them. Another neighbor once brought over Younkers “Friends and Family” discount coupons when he apologized the day after we knocked on his door and politely asked him to turn his music down…but he moved out a while ago.
What I really won’t miss though will be the stairs. With the living level above the garage, and the bedrooms above the living level, we were constantly going up and down the stairs. Most of the time they weren’t so bad, but other times they seemed unbearable…like coming in after a late night with a carload of guitar gear or groceries.
I also won’t miss Aurora Avenue, which is perhaps the ruttiest, curviest, ¾-mile stretch of road in the entire state. Yet it was the quickest route with the least amount of traffic lights into West Des Moines, so we were forced to use it daily. Ten bucks says they completely fix it this fall…just in time for us not to be able to use it.
So even if it wasn’t perfect, it was still ours. Being in this state of flux and not having a space to completely call our own just gives us more incentive to complete this “move, sell, build” phase so that we can begin the journey all over again as a family. Sure, we will miss our first home, but I feel that we will eventually look back in fondness of where we came from rather than longing to go back to the way things were.
Because after all, walls don’t make a house a home…people do.