It’s hard. It’s painful. How do you say goodbye to…a house?
As I sat waiting in the car while my husband made a last sweep for his car keys and sunglasses to begin our trek back to our new city of residence, I looked carefully. I marveled at the green backyard from the wet spring and summer and the glorious perennials I had planted over the past few years blooming in purples and shades of white in the garden beds. I took in the classic yet sophisticated white aluminum siding and black shutters.
Still a great looking house, I thought. I should say good… I couldn’t say it.
In surprising speed, tears welled up in my eyes. This is it; my last time to leave this place, this house, this home, this haven for the past twenty-three years. Such quick emotion is not common for me, thinking being my preferred verb of processing versus feeling. Still, I am a woman, a wife for thirty-seven years, a mother for thirty-four years, and a grandmother for six years. I am a nest-builder for those I love and care for. This century-year old house has been a sturdy, even charming nest for my birdies. All three children grew up and took wing from here. All teenage drama and development happened here. A couple birdies returned for short seasons during their twenties. Two married during our time at this house, and my young granddaughters have visited yearly at Christmas and for some summer adventures.
Accented with Afghan rugs, the warm and refinished hardwood floors always elicited compliments. The archway between the first floor living areas is not found in newer houses and made a separate-yet-open definition to each room. Glass tiles in the upstairs bathroom gave a wonderful vintage feel that I never wanted removed in remodeling efforts. Yes, the unfinished stone basement with its out-of-use coal room did not offer extended living quarters, only storage and laundry space. And the detached garage in the back alley was not heated in the Missouri winters or cooled in the summer sun, but we made do and appreciated the protection it offered.
During the seven years my husband and I lived in Kabul, Afghanistan, I cemented my already solid loyalty to this house. Due to the generosity of a couple in our church who offered to make our house payment when we moved overseas, our semi-launched children had lodgings and we had a welcome nest to fall into when we visited back in America. When I left my headscarf and role of foreigner behind in Central Asia, nothing ministered to me like sleeping in my own bedroom and making breakfast in my own kitchen. Jet lag and third world problems melted off in the warmth of pleasant, familiar surroundings. The mature, shady trees and sidewalks throughout my neighborhood became recognized anew for the gems they always were.
When I returned from Afghanistan for good, I needed almost two years of decompressing from the intense experience. Being able to sit quietly, alone or with my friends and family in the comfort, the peace and assurance of this long-time partner, my home, contributed to my healing and restoration. A church friend, who understood my emotional state, sent me a vinyl wall banner when I first arrived home from Kabul: There’s No Place Like Home. I took a photo of the banner, mounted on the den wall before I walked out the door for the last time.
By the time my husband got in the car and glanced my way, I was speechless, a rare moment for me. His sensitive nature immediately joined my emotional state and he reached over to take my hand. Without discussion, with perfect agreement, he choked through a brief but grateful prayer for the years of family life lived here and for all the friends and guests sheltered and entertained within the walls. We thanked our Heavenly Father for granting us such a gift, not a mansion, but a great house for us. Within this man-made structure, we felt the love and presence of God year after year.
“Good-bye, house,” I finally whispered out loud. “You are free to be someone else’s cherished home now. Be good to that eager young couple relocating from another state that bought you and can hardly wait to move in. It’s okay; I release you to make memories with them. I have my own and even good-bye cannot take them from me.”
Whew. I am crying again. Who would have thought it would be so hard to say good-bye to…a house?