I played with a bunch of titles for this post, but as my cursor blinked at me from the title bar, that’s what I typed. Because man, oh man, is it the truth.
I don’t know if you guys are like this. You may not be. You may be the sort of person who turns in their keys or closes a door for the last time and thinks, “Great run! On to the next.”
I am decidedly not that person. I’m more the “turns in her key, sobs, goes to every room and stares lovingly around at all the empty walls and feels an enormous sense of gratitude and sadness for all that took place within them” sort of person.
There’s just so much of LIFE that happens in a house. I remember Sarah Jessica Parker always saying that the city of New York was essentially the fifth women in the cast of Sex and the City, and that’s exactly how I feel about this house. It’s been the fifth member of our family.
When we moved to Asheville, it was July of 2015. We were just shy of our one year wedding anniversary and were moving to North Carolina to “have an adventure,” since we had no children and didn’t own a home yet. We planned to be here for two, maybe three years (on the very outside). Three years later, our heels are dug in, and, for as long as we can see in front of us, we’re Ashevillians. It snuck up on us, like almost all good things do. We moved here with no friends or family in town - a newly married couple striking out on their own to a new state for the very first time. Jordan had never lived anywhere but Alabama, and my longest stint outside the state was a one year stopover in Memphis, during which I practically split my time between the 901 and the 205 in order to visit my then-boyfriend/fiance.
We moved into this house sight unseen. I found an ad on Craigslist, and, like a true and unmitigated psychopath, proceeded to give my personal information to a total stranger in exchange for a 2-year lease on a home I’d never set foot in. I remember making the 7-hour (with many stops, of course) trek from Birmingham to Asheville with four cars and a massive uHaul. Somehow, Tom Hanks and I were the first to arrive in our new home. I met our landlord and my sweet dog and I trotted around the empty craftsman home, stunned that we’d hit the jackpot with what was a beautiful house with a lovely view. The neighborhood we could take or leave, but the house itself was perfectly wonderful.
For the first 4 months or so, we lived like that. No real interactions with our neighbors, no real friendships. Jordan was working at a practice 45 minutes out of town, so I had a lot of time to myself. I took a job at J Crew to make friends (and thankfully, succeeded in making one of my closest in Asheville who started out as my manager and ended up as my dear friend). Soon, construction started on a slew of new homes in what used to be the lot to the right of us where baby bears would frolic in the trees. I’ll admit, our initial reaction was to be wildly annoyed and peeved that our landlord had promised us nothing would ever come of those lots - that the builders had been “saying they would start for years - don’t worry about it.”
“Maybe you’ll end up with wonderful neighbors you never even knew you needed,” my mom suggested at one point.
“Yeah, right,” I scowled back. “Fat chance.”
Seven new houses and three years later, things are very different.
The families that inhabit those seven homes are our family in Asheville. They have hosted us, eaten with us, invited us over, celebrated our birthdays and baby. They’ve cried with us in moments of sorrow and frustration, danced late night, played poker and discussed novels. Their dogs have become our dog’s friends.
There’s no way to really describe the street we lucked into living on except to say that it is magical in every possible way. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it, and I know I never will. Though the people will still be very much a part of our lives (we’re only moving across town), the luxury of walking out onto the street and running into three, four, five, ten of our neighbors/family members for an impromptu neighborhood street party with babies and dogs and no shoes and cold beers and sunset light is a thing I will miss for as long as I don’t have it. If you’ve been lucky enough to know what I mean, you know what a true heartbreaker it is to leave.
But we had to buy instead of rent. And so we did.
This is the house I brought my son home to. I started this blog on a wing and a prayer from the couch here. I told Jordan we were pregnant in the den. Tom Hanks got stung by a wasp for the first time in the shower the day we moved in. Brand new baby Mac settled into his very first non-hospital nap in the master bedroom. All the big news in my life has been received while standing in the kitchen or lounging in front of the fireplace - babies, engagements, jobs. Some of the things I’m most proud of having written were typed at the desk where I’m sitting now, or the kitchen table.
It is unbearable, if I’m being honest. And I don’t think that makes me a wimp. I think it makes a sentimental sonofabitch, and I think that quality makes me a good writer. But these things - what some other more practical peers might find to be mundane and just another part of life - these are the things that gut me.
I am wounded by the thought that the sunrise will still be in Mac’s nursery window but I won’t be there to see it. Add in any number of lines like that about things that will continue to go on without me in this house. I’ve thought about them all already. This week, I’ve perfected the art of the 5-minute sob, wherein I feel the tears shoot up from my gut and stab my sinuses like hot pepper, swell my throat like a bee sting, then slide back down into my stomach and wait to be invited back by the next soul-crushing realization of house-related grief. In the meantime, back to business. Packing, feeding my baby, all the things life demands.
It is a process to grieve the walls within which a load, a bundle, an impossible mass of memories were made.
If you want to cry next time you move homes, give me a ring. I’m around. I’ll make sure to tell you your house is proud of you, even if other people think it’s ridiculous. The Practicals think almost everything is ridiculous. But they’re only seeing the construction. They need a push to be reminded of the magic that’s waiting around the corner, like I did, and will again one day. Tonight, though, I’m square in the middle of it. I feel it prickling my skin.
Ah, well. Here’s to those of you who manage to get out of this thing without shedding any tears. Write me a manual and maybe one day I’ll get a little better at it. Of course, I know this new house will be incredible and I’m so excited and everything will ultimately be fine. Blah, blah, blah. It’s always fine with the right attitude, isn’t it? We’ve walked through scary things before and moving, even across town, away from our friends and this house feels scary. We’ll do it again, and it’ll be great just like it has been every time so far.
But first I have to walk room to room, filled with that gratitude I was talking about earlier, imagining that the house itself is a living breathing thing like I’ve always suspected, who’s watched me grow and chance from a brand new 26-year-old wife into an almost-30 year old mom and all the millions of less significant (but probably equally significant in other ways) changes in between.
I wonder what it thinks about me. I hope it likes me. I think it does. I think it’s probably proud of me. I think maybe I confuse houses with the tangible spirit of God, and that’s why it feels so devastating to leave. Then again, maybe that’s not confusion - maybe that’s a lesson that we just aren’t ever, ever, ever alone. It’s never about what it’s about, and this isn’t about just the house. It’s about chapters of life opening and closing and being written right under my feet with every step and choice, and how fast it all seems to go.
I started this post while the sun was up, watched it set over the mountains for the second-to-last time from this particular vantage point, and now it’s time to go make Halloween costumes with my husband. Life just keeps right on rolling.
Anyway. Here’s to 22 Thurland Avenue, one of the great loves of my life.
Thank you, friend.