Friday, June 03, 2011

Looking at Our Home as a House

Earlier this year when the decision was made to sell this house and persue one of two plans to move, I began the process of emotional detachment from this place. Have you read "Under the Tuscan Sun"? (I didn't ask if you saw the (horrid) movie, which I hope you did not, but did you read the book?) I loved the book. I "get" the book.

One thing that surprised me was Frances Mayes' surprise and delight in falling in love with a place for the first time. She happened to have been in mid-life when that happened for her, which puzzled me. I have that same feeling for my hometown that I lived in for the first 28 years of my life and I have it for my mother's birth place in northern Maine which I've visisted at least a hundred times on vacations visiting relatives. I grew up and came of age in Maine just as much as I did as a girl of a Connecticut suburb. I have the attachment to place for Cape Cod, which was my grandmother's birthplace but which I came to know in my adult life mostly through visits to my mother-in-law's vacation home over the last 20 years that I've been with my husband.

I had that love for the first home we bought, not so deep as I have for this place, perhaps as I was at the first house just six years. I had it especially the gardens I designed and planted with my own hands in my first home; it was where I changed my attitude from hating dirt to loving soil and to not giving a hoot about plants to falling in love with gardening. I have it now for this place, for the house itself and the memories made inside it, and for the garden I've planted and the two acres of woods filled with a surprisingly wide variety of trees and wild edible plants and herbal medicine plants and with the many interesting wild creatures. And I love the chimney swifts, my wild pets who nest in my chimneys, sharing this shelter house with us.

It pained me to think of leaving here. It was never our plan to go. But once I knew that it would happen (out of financial necessity, dang that reality of life in America), I started to let go. It was hard to do as there was not yet knowledge of where we were going, I couldn't start to dream of the new place yet, I only had the sense of mourning over leaving here against my will.

The oddest part is trying to imagine looking at our home as just a house, a house as an item on the real estate market. Suddenly I'm thinking not of the lovely morning light that comes through the master bathroom sklylight and how the white oak tree leaves sway in the breeze and cast shadows over all the bathroom's surfaces but of how the counters are just formica and how someone will bitch and moan that they are not good enough for them, wanting granite instead. The jacuzzi tub which I've probably not used enough as I took it for granted is pale gray, gray is one the color I detest, yet I accepted it out of happiness for actually having a big jacuzzi tub to use. Now some potential buyer may bemoan that now the colors in fashion are shades of ecru and brown instead and how will they decorate around the gray? As I look around I see little things I'd not noticed before like a little fleck of paint gone from the dining room's dark red walls. How could I not have noticed that before? Oh, that's right: I was too busy living my life.

Now that my husband has begun a job out of state I am thrilled to move away and have a normal life with employment again. My thoughts have turned to the new life we'll have there. I am focusing on what I can and should get rid of as it's not needed in Texas: thick sweaters, many pairs of gloves and hats, multiple winter coats, and snow shovels. What am I to do with my brand new snowshoes? Due to having less storage space I guess it's time to let go of the kid's homeschool papers and most of their artwork and sculptures and science and craft projects too. Perhaps harder will be to let go of  more items I recently inherited from my grandmothers when they passed on.

Earlier this year I was torn about whether to start seeds growing in my basement for the vegetable and herb garden or not as I didn't know if I'd be living here in the peak of growth season let alone at harvest time. I decided to go on and plant the seeds as if we were here I'd regret not having gone about my normal life.  As I write this the seedlings are on the deck on their last day of being hardened off and are ready to plant in the garden.

Yesterday a real estate agent visited the home and one thing she recommended was I'd have to stop my projects now. She saw cilantro drying on a table and cleavers drying by a fan. She looked at the vegetable garden and suggested that if I didn't have time to weed the paths this summer or if I'm away that I should hire someone to do the weeding. She said the focus of my life right now is to pack up and get this house ready to put on the market and to have it show ready. In order to do that she said I should also pay babystiter type people to drive my sons to their sports and Scout meetings in order to do nothing but pack up, declutter, and clean. That means the projects and all of our family life as I know it would be over.

What I do is who I am, so this feels very strange, especially if it were to go on for months on end. At this point I don't know what date the house will be put up for sale and I don't know when the kids and I are moving to Texas. I cannot stop doing what makes me the person I am! I'm trying to juggle regular life while preparing to move (and it is stressful yet I can't just stop!) We're at the end of the lacrosse season so no, I won't not go watch my son's last tournament with this team, held on the campus of Yale. I won't miss out on the last Scout family camping trip we'll probably ever take. I won't miss the measly last two Scout meetings, I can handle those. I need a more gentle closure to our life here.

As I have been going through the house making changes to the way I have decorated in order to make the house more appealing to buyers it is a slow process of weaning my heart away from this place. The family room tables don't look the same without the family photos on them. The bathroom counter looks artificial being so bare. Maybe those negative feelings and the nagging sense of loss are just part of the process of detachment and weaning? I'll survive I'm sure. It just hurts a bit to go through this, combined with being lonely for my husband, and also to parent my kids through their own sense of mourning and missing their father.

I'm happy that we're leaving here for a good life somewhere else, it's a new chapter in our lives. I hope our new life in Texas is a happy one, and I hope we find a nice new place to live that will be not just a house but a real home. It probably won't be a direct transition, this is turning out to be more of a process than an immediate lifestyle change. Maybe if I knew the date we'd be out of here and starting our new life in Texas this would all be easier to take?

Once again I'm struggling with accepting stressful conditions which have uncertainty for the future, never knowing when they will end. Uncertainty is the hardest thing for me to handle. I hate it. Let me know where I'm going and when and I'll adjust. Living in a state of chaos and limbo for some unknown time going into the future is crazy-making to me. Hopefully some decisions will be made in the next week to firm up a different plan of action.


christinethecurious said...

I haven't commented in a while so: congratulations on your husband's new job!

I can so relate to wanting to live even while moving. I cried when my Princess Victoria Louise Papover Orientalis got left behind in Il, I'd potted it up all ready to go.

We once moved out of an inexpensive, beautiful apartment to a small, more expensive one because our landlords were selling the house, and we had to clean every Thursday night after dragging ourselves home from night school and a full day's work.

Can you take some photos of your house and garden to say good bye with? Perhaps you can make a scrapbook of your home through the seasons to clue the next people in on what they can enjoy - not that people with cash are always the people who know nature...but at least you can artistically process your goodbyes.

Can you let your hobby/new skills to acquire be 'how to move?' You are so good at learning new skills. This one isn't fun, but it does have some creativity involved.

To this day, my whole in-law family delight in how my Mother in law invested in getting the scuffed hardwood floors re-finished, and the glowing wood sold their home.

You sure have a lot to wrap your head around, moving is so stressful, so is uncertainty, and not seeing your husband regularly!

Hang in there, let me know if you'd like some help hauling things, I'm not THAT far away.

Christine in Mass

C T said...

Suggestion for kid's schoolwork, projects, etc.: take photos of it all with a digital camera, then store all the photos on a USB storage device. It's much easier to toss things when you still have a record of them.
Good luck with getting the house ready!

floridakotan said...

Moving is stressful! We had a set date in early December, so I remember feeling strained and a little guilty for paying goodbye visits and celebrating Thanksgiving when I still had so much packing hanging over my head! And like you, my husband had already moved and begun working in the new location. So I know what you're saying. You DO still have to live where you are, even as you prepare for your new life. I like the suggestions of the other commenters. I never imagined how difficult it would be for me to transition from my old life to my new...finally came to the realization that it is a type of loss and I must give myself permission to grieve...I had some denial (as in thinking deep down that this is really only a temporary move, ha!) sorrow, anger, depression, not debilitating but enough so that my girl told me she wanted her old mom back :( yeah, it's been rough. But I think you are off to a good start in facing and identifying your thoughts and emotions. I know it's hard! You're in my thoughts and prayers.

Marianne said...

Hi Christine,
I love your blog, although I confess to being a batch reader rather than every day. You have a beautiful writing style. Reading your sentiments about your home, I was reminded of a book that I loved. Have you ever read anything by Dominique Browning? Her writing about her home and garden was so touching, and my mind just bounced immediately to her when I read your post. I'd recommend her books for you when you have some "me time" again someday. :)
Best wishes to you and your family as you undertake this move. The opportunity to move far away and "start fresh" sounds terribly appealing sometimes, but having to pack up a beloved home would put a major damper on the enthusiasm. I admire your strength and clarity - hang in there!