Hand in hand, my husband, daughter and I walked into our home for the last time. Our furniture was gone, the pictures that filled our walls packed away. After weeks of putting our things into boxes, the day had finally arrived for us to close a chapter of our lives and say goodbye to our home. Going through each room, our 4-year-old daughter with teary eyes said goodbye to every wall, closet, window and door. Each room filled with unforgettable memories… that sweet “baby” smell that used to fill her room where I spent countless hours rocking her to sleep, the spot in the living room where we cheered her on as she took her very first steps, watching her run and play in the backyard with the neighbor girls who have become like sisters to her, watching her smile proudly as she learned to ride her bike on the sidewalk in front… every inch of that house tied to priceless moments of our lives.
At first, our daughter was excited when we told her we would be building a new house – it would only be 15 minutes away so she could still be a part of all her activities and see her friends whenever she wanted. But as the months flew by and it became time to pack, her behavior started to change. She became irritable and angry, throwing tantrums that didn’t even compare with those of the dreaded “terrible twos”. She seemed to have lost her usual sweet, happy-go-lucky self. Throughout the process I did what I was supposed to according to the numerous articles and podcasts I listened to about this frequently struggled with topic… we read her books about moving, talked about the new house a lot, took her there several times a week and imagined how we would set up all her toys in the new place. We packed her room and playroom last and took lots of breaks when she would start to get upset. But no matter how positive we were about the move, she said she couldn’t get rid of the “tickle” in her tummy. Her anxiety about moving was really affecting her so much so that she could hardly leave my side. One evening (after an especially trying day of numerous melt-downs and I was at the end of my rope) I pulled her close and just hugged her as tight as I could. I explained to her that it was ok to feel nervous – mommy and daddy are nervous and sad to move, too. I told her that even though we were excited for a brand new home, we would also miss our old house and all the memories we have had there. Being sad was ok. As I held her, I could almost physically feel her start to relax. She looked up at me, gave me a kiss and then nuzzled back into my arms where she stayed for a bit longer. After trying so hard to remain positive for her, what she really needed was someone to relate to; someone to say, “I’m nervous and sad, too.”
And sad I was. Moving is hard. Especially if you get overly attached to places and people as I tend to do. For me, this place wasn’t only my home, it was where I work, my safe place, my sanctuary. My nights leading up to the move were tear-filled and sleepless, tossing and turning as I second-guessed our decision to leave. Was it the right choice? Would we someday look back and kick ourselves for leaving this happy house? Will our daughter always feel like she wants to go “home” but can’t? Are we breaking her heart by taking her away from the only home she has ever known? These questions haunted me until my neighbor and very dear friend reeled me back into reality by simply saying, “It’s just a place… you have your people.” She was right, no matter what we not only have our family but we are walking away from this house having made friends we will keep for a lifetime.
A few days after we moved out, it was Halloween. Our daughter asked if we could trick-or-treat at our old house. Hesitant, we asked her if she was sure as we didn’t want her to make her sad. She was sure. As we walked up to the door we had opened millions of times before, it felt so familiar yet different at the same time. We introduced our daughter to the new owners. They were so nice! They invited us right in and talked so sweetly to our daughter. They assured her they would take good care of “her house” and said we could come back to visit anytime we would like to. They were absolutely wonderful. As we drove away we heard our sweet, sensitive little girl say “I’m happy they get to make happy times at that house like we did!” My husband and I looked at each other and breathed a sigh of relief. We had our closure. As hard as it was to say goodbye to that happy home, we are excited to open a new chapter and make happy memories in our new place. After all, happiness doesn’t have just one address!