It was a year and a half after the divorce. The house had been on the market for 9 months. Rambling around in a 4500 square foot house was wearing on me. Just maintaining it and the acre and a half yard was a huge project. But, it was the emptiness that was taking the greatest toll.
“It’s different now that I see his clothes gone.” My 17 year old son remarked standing in his dad’s empty closet right after S. moved out. He fought back tears. He had initially been in favor of the divorce because of the arguing. I found out later he felt responsible for it, the way children often do.
At the ripe age of 9 he had made a card for us. An orange stick figure holding a bow and arrow with a huge broken heart in the background. It read, “Joy is available to you, but you will break each other’s hearts and it will never grow back.” I kept it as a tearful reminder, a child shouldn't have the burden of keeping his parents together, not that it helped.
We built the house in 1996. As in interior designer, I drew the plans and oversaw every custom detail, including supervising the former engineer turned brick mason/bass fisherman. I am sure he wanted to kill me. For days I watched him, asking him to be sloppier with the mortar and lay the bricks at an angle. “But I graduated with a degree in engineering,” he said in exasperation. “I just can’t make uneven rows.” “Sure you can,” I said smilingly.
But that was then.
Presently, the golf course that our community had been built around was covered in foot tall weeds and tied up in lawsuits for the un-foreseeable future. House prices were plummeting. Still, I had to leave the place that was a daily reminder of lost dreams. Not to mention a grueling bumper to bumper drive both ways to and from my office, and the two times I called the police because I heard noises in the cavernous unfinished basement, sure that someone had broken in since my dog would not stop barking at the basement door.
In a last-ditch effort, I decided to make some updates I hoped would help sell my beloved “forever home”. Workmen were installing new granite countertops. It was one of those windy spring days. Somehow in their goings and comings the front door had not closed completely. When they brought the granite in the back, the pressure blew the front door open, creating a sequence reminiscent of dominos. It was one big shit show. I stood by helplessly watching. Finally, after the dust settled, I lifted a large painting from the floor and saw the antique wooden toy horse, a gift from my mom, laying there in pieces. It was as broken as I felt. The tears came again making me wonder if I would ever stop crying.
Six months later, the house finally sold, for less than we paid 15 years earlier to build it. Another bittersweet day questioning everything. The challenge now, 30 days to move into a new place. Although my son was in college at this point, the sting of loss was very present. I wanted a house he could feel happy in.
We found one.
It was too large and not where I wanted to live. (Note to self, listen to your gut.) Still, it had a luxuriously finished basement complete with bathroom, surround sound and a fireplace, which my son promptly claimed as his. Happy dance.
Despite two months of packing and giving things away, an unfinished, 2500 square foot basement, plus an attic, accumulates a whole bunch of forgotten, or useless stuff. I was staring into 15 years of neglected decisions, in which I had, like Scarlett O’Hara, deluded myself by saying, “I’ll think about it tomorrow”.
At one point while helping me unload the attic my sister cooed, “How precious” over a box of my son’s three-year-old art work (only child and all). When I handed her the fifth box in that sequence however, she raised an eyebrow. “Prolific little sucker wasn’t he?” We both burst out laughing, but obviously, there was far too much I hadn’t let go of.
It was a nightmare. I was still making trips in the car a good 10 hours after the movers left.
At 2 a.m. I was drained of time, energy and options. The new owners would be arriving at 8. I gave the house my best 30 minute “professional clean”.
My final good bye?
A note letting me know I HAD NOT done such a great job of cleaning! LOL…duh
And this, I later realized, was step number two in getting to Paris.
And getting rid of things that held me back instead of propelling me forward.
I won’t lie and tell you this was easy.
But sitting here now, I will tell you
it was so worth it.
(PS, I still have a lot of the artwork, just not the ones made with food products! Some things we must keep.)