We moved in 3 years in ago in March, when things were tight and we needed to save. It was a place just big enough for now, knowing all the while that it wouldn’t be forever. Lately, as Athena inched toward 10, she had noticed the homes of her friends. With every innocent comparison made and a toddler growing by the day, the pressure we felt to move increased. Each week when Wednesday rolled around and the local rentals posted I scoured the bright screen, coffee in hand, in hopeful anticipation. Then in a stroke of luck a sweet three bedroom home just down the street all but fell into our hands. Yet as we began to sort through the piles in corners and drawers, and drag in the big cardboard boxes to fold and fill, I felt a weariness drift in. It wasn’t just the looming task of packing up a family of four with a one year old ever present at my feet that wore on me. Our two bedroom apartment, one half of an ancient farmhouse that despite our best efforts was falling apart at the seams, that grew smaller each day and saw us tripping over each other at every turn, had become a part of us despite our complaints and dreams of a bigger space.
By the time I was eight, my family had moved nearly as many times as I’d had birthdays. My parent’s well intentioned, idealistic dreams had us pick up and settle time and time again. Finally moving into a big house on Hollenbeck Avenue where we stayed through thick and thin until we were deep into our teenage years and too distracted by the ups and downs of high school to feel anything more than a fleeting nostalgia when my mom sold our big old Victorian. Faint pictures of the houses we had lived in prior floated in my head, made up of stories told of this place, or that. The memories were easy to place according to which house we lived in at the time. The rope swing on that old dirt road, the pool that glowed greenish in the summer night, the roadside lake spot where we learned to swim. Each image of my childhood was attached to a period of time that was spent in a certain house. The houses took on names of their own, further placing them as permanent characters in our childhood, etching them as familiarly in our minds as a person or a song. The Pennsylvania house, The New Hampshire House, The Hollenbeck house. Monikers reflecting the state or town or street where we had once lived.
And so moving to me, was always just part of the story. Each house a new chapter to file away, memories contained within the bookends of the years spent there. All roads leading to the place my own children would call home.
Prospect Street was always temporary. Yet it had somehow become the kind of place thats hard to leave behind. Not because it was spacious or particularly lovely, but because of all the things that happened within it’s four walls. The way we cleaned it from roof to floor in the last few sweltering weeks of that July, dusting every corner and scrubbing every surface in anticipation of our new baby girl. Only to return home from the hospital floating on air, too exhausted and happy to care about the piles of laundry and dishes. The mess that accumulated as we held and loved and kissed Wren and sent Athena off as a third grader for the first time, newly a big sister beaming with pride and exaggerated complaints of baby. The friends we squeezed onto air mattresses on the living room floor, who woke to drink endless cups of coffee with us on the crowded front porch well into the afternoon, delaying their departure for the same reason we aimed to keep them there a little longer, wasting away hours together before time and miles, should keep us apart. Their cars and vans piled in the driveway, prompting neighbors to speculate and us to laugh at the sight of it all, but our small house didn’t mind us filling it to the brim with the best of folks. The view from my post at the kitchen sink, where the backyard clothesline leant a dusty kind of romance to my most tiresome chore. The swaying of the sumac and tiny muslins in the breeze. The photos posed and snapped under the pine tree out front, its expansive trunk and old branches the backdrop of grand parent visits, our first picture as four, two sisters in costume together. In just shy of three years so much had happened here. I became suddenly aware of leaving behind the echoes of a thousand memories that could never be replaced, wishing somehow there was a way to transport them up the hill and down around the corner to our new home. To breathe them into the walls there and let them fill the empty spaces before we moved in. To somehow hold onto all that is intangible, to those things that could barely be described let alone packed up in a box. The story looks so different with children, and every passing year.