After we did the last bit of moving and cleaning up on Friday, we headed camping which explains why I have missed another day of love notes. I needed a day to reflect on the following love note. It was a tough one to write but a needed one…
Dear new owners,
On Friday you moved into our old home. I want you to know that I did my best to clean it out especially because in our closing agreement, the term “broom swept” was emphasized.
That little bit of housekeeping was the last thing we did while the house was still ours. We swept it out. My oldest daughter took the broom and swept the main floor first. I watched how she silently she swept it. The rest of the kids were outside. I stood there watching her sweep not sure what to do with myself. I wondered what she was thinking. She never really volunteers to sweep but she wanted to do this today. I feel like she had to do this.
After she was done, she passed the broom to me. I had already swept most of the debris the day before. The bits of lego, crumbs, and stray bits of our everyday had littered the floor. Today I felt that this last chore was a formality. I was going through the motions. I was going over every bit of floor space as slowly as I could.
Sweeping had always been meditative for me. When the kids were little, I would grab the broom four or five times a day. Some think it’s a futile endeavour but I happen to love the act of sweeping the floor. When life was chaotic with five children, I could grab the broom and focus on this one thing.
Sweeping was the first thing I did when we arrived in the house after we took possession almost ten years ago. We only had three kids at the time and they weren’t with us that first night when we moved in. I was exhausted from moving from a small townhouse to this larger semi-detached home. As I swept the middle bedroom for the last time, I smiled to myself as I came across a white paint splatter that was still on the floor. I remember not putting a tarp down as we painted in a hurry those first few days in the house. I wanted the middle room painted before the kids came home.
The middle room was for #2 and #3. They were getting a bunk bed while the eldest would get her own room. It was a perfect sized home for a family of five. But the night we moved in, I didn’t feel well. That night I would make my husband run out to the store to buy a pregnancy test. That night we found out we were expecting our fourth.
I swept and reminisced. With each sweep, I came across yet another mark we made on this house. Two coats of trim paint couldn’t cover the growth chart that is outside the middle bedroom door – a physical reminder of time passing. I did a sweep under the master bedroom window and stopped in front of it to look out at the kids playing in the driveway for the last time. This is where I would stand and watch. I would stand and watch all of them as I rocked a baby to sleep, as I sipped my coffee, as I gathered myself for another round of refereeing. I swept inside the linen closet which is the perfect hiding spot for hide-and-seek and even better for a game of sardines. My second daughter once decided it would be her bedroom when our fourth was born. I think she moved all her things in there as a protest for having to share her room with yet another sister. It’s also perfect for a clubhouse or secret hiding place for extra snacks.
I want to tell you how the basement can fit three mattresses side by side for family sleeps for those hot summer nights or those rainstorms that scare your babies. And the basement is perfect for a haunted house. Sorry there are no locks on any doors. We just never got around to it. The upstairs bathtub can fit three kids comfortably, but four if you can rinse them in less than a minute. Watch out for the corner on the top high counter when the kids are going through a growth spurt. Each of my children except the last one who hasn’t quite grown tall enough yet have pierced their head on the corner closest to the dining room. The shed can fit ten bikes easy. The best place for a Christmas tree is in that corner to the right of the fake fireplace. (Trust me, we have tried every possible place in that living room.) The stairs are perfect for mattress sliding (if that’s the type of thing your family is into). The kitchen can fit five kids around the stove taking turns to flip homemade perogies. The dining room can also be a volleyball court, an art studio, and a school room. Speaking of the school room, there used to be a chalkboard painted on the wall where the stairs are – it is where I learned to be an artist again. The porch is perfect for star gazing, lunches and dinners al fresco, private (enough) talks, and a perfect spot for an adult time out. The front window is perfect for looking out at our magnolia tree through the seasons. Make sure you are around in May when it blooms. We missed it a few times over the years and the kids were always disappointed to come home to green leaves on the tree and pink petals on the ground. I’m sorry we got rid of the tree stumps in the back. I wasn’t sure if you saw them as “debris” or as my kids saw them: endless props for their make-believe narratives.
Oh and the floor creaks and we love it that way.
I swept down the hall to the small bedroom at the back of the house. It was my eldest daughter’s room for most of our time there. There were a lot of cuddles and conversations in that room. A year ago we moved her with her sisters to the master bedroom while my husband and I took this room for ourselves. I wanted the morning sun and my growing girls needed more room.
Just outside this room is a special place where the stairs meet the hallway. We have a decal of words up that our family has lived by all these years. We have spent many times reading it to the children reminding them of who we are.
But you may notice that the space slightly to the right of it is worn out. It is the space where once you get upstairs you are turning to head down the hallway. I stop here with the broom because I feel it the most here. I feel the overwhelming love for this house. I feel the weight of knowing that I will not have this spot to stand in anymore. You see, this is the place where I have stood and embraced every member of my family. It is the place where we meet in the middle. It is the place where we soften. I go up the stairs to say sorry or to check on them and they come out of their rooms to seek me to try again. They know where to find me. In that spot. In front of those words – our intentions, our family statement.
As I stood there one last time reading it, my fourth child came up the stairs beside me. She read it out loud. For the first time, I heard her read it all out loud. Our theme song. I started to cry and she hugged me in that spot and went downstairs. And then another child came out of the middle bedroom. She saw me standing there. She ran to me and fell into my arms sobbing. I held her one last time in this halfway place.
I held her there for a long time. And then we all held her together. It was time to leave. It’s time to move forward.
As I swept this house for the last time, I wanted to tell you our story. I had this idea of making a map for you. I wanted to be able to give you a tour of this house through my heart. Maybe you would understand then what this house means to me. I want to tell you that I leave here feeling mostly relieved. Relieved that we did it – that I did it. I did the thing that I never thought I could do, that I was scared that I would never do when I had my baby eighteen years ago. I made a home. The first home I never wanted to leave. The first home that my kids will hold all their future homes as a standard – a home filled with tradition, a home filled with laughter, a home filled with love.
But of course, I won’t leave you a letter with all of this. That wouldn’t be fair. You will create your own manifesto and write your own story with your family. I hope you feel how much love circulated through the walls and in all the rooms. I hope you take care of this place that has given so much to us. I have swept out the old for you so you can make it new again. We did our best to leave the most beautiful energy for you to start your life in this house.
And maybe you will see a yellow bird on the wire outside the bedroom window. If you do, it’s probably just my grandmother making sure we’ve moved on.
100 days of love notes…