I spent the last few nights removing all traces of me and my family from my home. I took all of the photographs and turned them around to the image that was there when I bought the frame. I inserted blank pages into the 5 X 7 spaces, leaving even more to the imagination. I color sorted my closet and rid it of half of the shoes and any trace of lingerie because people selling their homes certainly don’t wear too many shoes or have sex. Duh.
It’s an odd ritual we’re coerced into when we sell our homes. Our realtors tell us that all personal items must go. That our memories and emotions should vacate the premises so that the potential buyer can picture themselves in our space. There are psychological studies that prove this is the best way to market a house. I see the logic. How can we feel at home when we’re shopping when all we see is someone else’s? But, the real person that lives inside the seller and the buyer calls bullshit.
I felt like I was cheating on my children when I traded their beautiful faces for a blank slate. I was erasing their existence, sacrificing memories for strangers and the almighty dollar. I looked at their eyes as I flipped my family over, silently telling them, “Not now. The buyers won’t like you. You can come back soon.” It was nauseating. But, I did it anyway. Perhaps I’m overanalyzing. But, you get the point. I didn’t like it.
People have asked why I’m moving. My house is in the perfect location. I live in a Pottery Barn catalog. And, who doesn’t want to live in a Pottery Barn catalog? This girl. I bought my townhouse when I was divorcing, hurting and aching for a place to call my own. When I had nowhere else to go. The house I bought had no personality, no love on the walls. I wanted a clean slate. It was the first major decision I made all by myself. 50 years old and I was finally a big girl making my own way. And, I mucked it up. Financially? I did well. It was a smart decision and I made it beautiful. But, did I find my bliss? Did I truly find a place to call my home? I live in a dream. But, not mine. Not really. A home should serve more than a purpose.
I’ve lived here two and a half years and haven’t met any of my neighbors except for the LuLaroe rep and the married man that hit on me repeatedly after I placed a Freebie ad on Nextdoor. He said he wanted to make me happy…like, really really happy. Can’t walk my dog on that street anymore. I desperately wanted this house and this neighborhood to feel like home, I really did. But, when I went to the pool and the women were wearing bikinis and high heels, spurring flashbacks to Melrose Place, I quickly realized that this ain’t it. It may be home for the pretty people drinking beer at the pool on Saturday afternoons, but not for me.
They say home is where your heart is. Well, my heart is in Manassas, VA as a 3rd-grade teacher, expecting her first baby. Another portion of my heart is a producer for a popular video game on his way to a new life in Albany, NY. The last third of my heart wants to teach English in the mountains of Thailand after he graduates college in December. For years, I had a house and neighbors that I cherished. And now, another family’s pictures live in it. So, where is home without the love and memories that beat deep within my chest? Apparently, I’m still figuring that out as I eradicate all hints of them for the next person who will climb my stairs.
Sometimes I wonder if anything will feel like home again. Home was where I tutored my kids in math and plied their friends with chocolate chip cookies. Home was where I hosted heartfelt wine and laughter-filled Christmas Eves. Home was where the kids wrapped themselves in sleeping bags and rode down the hardwood stairs like a slide. Home was where my dog Sophie ate a whole bottle of prescription indigestion meds my son’s friend brought to a sleepover. Home was where my daughter and I snuggled and watched Gilmore Girls. How do you define home when you were forced to sell it and move into a poor, picture perfect substitute that is nothing like the original? A home that echoes emptiness when you walk the halls? When the kids have outgrown the memories and your hometown and you’re left just trying to make do with four walls and pictures of your past?
I’m still figuring that out. But, all I know is that I’m not home yet. Have I made an impulsive decision to leave and let go? Likely. But, as beautiful as my house is, and though the mortgage bears my name, it isn’t mine. Not really. Ask the 28-year old with the boob job living next door.
I’ve made an offer on another house. A new home that’s being built with no photos that have to be flipped, no memories that have to be forgotten. A house where I get to choose the finishes and imagine the results. A neighborhood that is just beginning with acres and acres of flat land and new construction. Maybe starting from scratch is what I need, something that I can make to be my very own as I watch it take shape from the ground up. Or, perhaps home at this stage of life is something more that needs to be re-defined and reimagined. I’m still figuring that out. I’ll let you know when I hang the first picture and start making memories.