I chose it for the right reasons. It was close enough to my children but far enough from their mother. I would never mow a lawn or lay pine straw again. The rich onyx of the granite and doors gave off a masculine vibe sorely lacking in the others. But most important of all perhaps, it was new – symbolic of the life I was to begin.
How do you say goodbye to a house?
This is the last week I will live in one that has kept me more than a decade. I would be lying if I weren’t a bit sentimental over that impending reality. Even as I contemplate the excitement waiting in the coming chapters, I’m slightly hesitant to turn the page.
For the past ten years its four bedrooms and baths have been my refuge from the storms of life, patiently watching as I navigated the waters of divorced fatherhood. It’s walls stood stoically while I made mistake upon mistake, like a boy learning to ride his bike, before I started doing ‘dad’, and life, right. It was my haven from the wind and hail of an Emotional Winter. This house has been my confidant, my shoulder, and occasionally my therapist. For nearly a quarter of my life it has been what I considered home and within days we will say goodbye forever.
It was never my intent to live here this long. It’s difficult to fathom that a decade has passed since the moving truck unloaded my half of a failed marriage. I was thirty-four at that time, the father of two very young children, and stranded amid the shoals of broken dreams. It’s better not to not get too deep into my emotional state then. Sufficed to say I was angry, frightened, and completely out of control. My world had been turned inside out and I had to figure out how to put it back right.
This house was the first step along that journey.
It’s been a kingdom consisting of 2500 square feet and a two-car garage where I was master and ruler over all. Every corner reflects my personal taste and style. I had become a painter and it was my canvas.I spent countless hours in search of just the right pictures and accessories. I chose the wall colors for their earthy feel, picked the carpet because it was shag and reminded me of my childhood, and I arranged the couches to allow for optimal enjoyment of, what was then, high fidelity.
But this went far beyond mere control through the act of choosing plantation blinds and wall clocks. This house became a representation, not of who I was at the time, but who I hoped to become in the future. Its gourmet kitchen labeled me as modern and progressive, it’s high ceilings painted me as imposing, and the master bedroom with its Asian motif, that I ironically dubbed ‘The Sanctuary”, pointed to me as philosophical and diverse. Ashamed and bewildered at where my life had led, this house characterized me as one who had it all together. It was my ideal image realized in whole house audio and Shaker cabinets. Mortified by failing at something so precious as a marriage, this house was to me a crowning and glorious achievement.
And yet as I sit here now amid a forest of moving boxes, I also recognize the time has arrived for this house and I to part ways. While it once represented the image of who I might become, it now reflects someone and something I no longer am.
This house is the ultimate “bachelor pad”. Perfect for a single man with far more seductive things than pressure washing driveways and trimming hedges. The home is impressive but not overstated. Equipped with modern elegance and luxury, it is not, and never was, fitted for raising children. There’s a degree of self-centeredness here that’s evident, and not tolerant of Cheeto crumbs and spilled milk. It’s fundamental purpose isn’t to aid in bringing up children, but personal convenience and another’s reaction.
And while this house once might have been my escape, as the years have toiled on, it started to become my prison. I failed to realize in the beginning that children don’t take naps forever and their friends will eventually supersede dad in importance. Such a neighborhood as this isn’t crafted for a child to make new acquaintances and explore the world, so as they have gotten up in years so has their level of boredom. I’m pretty sure they, if not dreaded, at least sighed heavily and often at the thought of spending long weekends with dad. And yard work, once an activity I thoroughly disdained, suddenly held a new appeal, something that looked a joy and reprieve from mundane conference calls and power points.
The Queen has never been a fan of this house, believing it lacks warmth and that homey feel. Maybe that’s because it never had the delicate influence of a woman and brown is apparently the only color I see on the spectrum. Or perhaps she feels this way because making it ‘home’ never once entered into my thinking. It was a place to lay my head and entertain another, I never thought of it as a place to nourish the soul.
But most of all, it’s time we separate because in many ways this house keeps me tied to a past I’ve long since moved beyond. It’s walls still echo with memories I’d soon rather slam the door on forever. Now it’s only a shadow of someone I once knew; a man and father standing at a crossroads in life not knowing which direction to turn and taking many wrong paths before stepping foot on a higher and better one.
This is the last week I will live in the home that’s kept me for over a decade. And while I will always have memories of the years spent under its roof, some sweet others bitter, on that last day when the final box is carried away, the floors and walls show barren, and the lights go dark, I will walk out the door, pause to give a moment of thanks, then gladly turn towards that more brilliant future waiting on the next page.