Sunday, October 19, 2014

Home is Wherever You (and They) Are

Something funny happens when your kids grow up.  They grow bigger.  And they also have more stuff.  In the past year our house has felt like the walls have been closing in on us a bit.  Our house is relatively small for a family of 5 by typical North American standards.  It's a 1065 square foot bungalow with no garage.  When we  bought it 13 1/2 years ago it felt really big to us.  We only had wee Hannah and there were a few rooms to fill.  Now we fill them up and are usually overflowing.

It was the "overflowing" part (as well as the lack of garage) that prompted us to start looking for a different house last Spring.  We had really specific parameters, as well as a really specific geographic location that we'd consider.  This was a move that was supposed to make our lives simpler and less cluttered with more room to breathe and less ice to chip off of the windshield.  We said we wouldn't move unless it was the "perfect house in the perfect location" (something that probably doesn't really exist), because there was too much good about where we were.

We've spent the past several months weeding through listings and seeing houses.  I'd say we've seen about 15 houses in since April, with the last one, for the second time just this afternoon.  Until this afternoon we were pretty sure we would be putting in an offer on this one.  Some things seemed perfect.  It had 4 bedrooms upstairs, it had lots of room in the living room, dining room, and family room for people.  We knew just how we'd gut the kitchen and start it all over again, and the yard and gazebo were beautiful.  The extra-wide double garage was big enough for our vehicles and our bikes.  It wasn't in the area we really wanted to live in, but we thought we could over-look that to get the other stuff.

We took the girls, and Mike's long-suffering kitchen-designing sister Corina, to see it yesterday.  We spent an hour pouring through the house, taking some measurements, imagining where we'd put things and who would get which room.   We came home and made lists and crunched numbers and anticipated what different repairs and upgrades would cost us.   Although there were things about the house the girls liked, they made it very clear to us that they really didn't want to move.  We've heard this loop on repeat since last Spring.  Anytime a move seems closer or a house seems better, their refrain gets louder.  They don't care if their bedrooms are minuscule or if they almost tumble down the basement stairs when there is more than one person getting their shoes on at the same time, they tell us. They like where we are and they don't want to leave.  We spent some time yesterday reassuring them that we will always try our very best to make decisions for our family that are for the best for everyone, and if we went ahead and bought this house, they would have to trust us to know it was a good decision for all of us.

Then this afternoon Mike and I went back alone to the Open House to take one last look.  We went expecting to be more convinced than ever that it was perfect.  Only when we got there, that wasn't the feeling we got.  We noticed the work that would need to be done, and not the space.  Our eyes found the cracks and the curling shingles instead of place our couch would go.  But it wasn't just that.  It was the packing and the planning, and the fixing things here to get ready to sell this house.  It was the boxes and the expense, the tightened budget, the inability to take big family vacations and sign our kids up for extra saxophone lessons if they want them.  As that mountain of things accumulated, all of the good things about the house got smaller and smaller.  By the time we got into our car, we both agreed that we don't have it in us right now and that sometimes, maybe our girls are smarter than we are.

Somehow we always think bigger is better, and sometimes it really is.  There is nothing wrong with bigger.  But there is something good and satisfying about keeping things simple and manageable and consistent.  (Remind me that I said this when I'm chipping a few inches of ice off the van in January when we're already late for school.)  For now, our girls crave familiarity.  They don't care if their room is tiny, or if we have to leave the house in shifts.  They aren't unsatisfied.  They need memories and holidays and things to remember and laugh about.  We'd have those in the new house too, but they would likely be interspersed with more talk about budgets and dread of anything breaking down or falling apart.

For now, this is where we're staying.  It's small and squishy, but we're all together.  We have places to visit and things to do.  We have neighbors we love and friend's houses that we can bike to.  We have people to car-pool with, and relieved kids.  For now, that's all we need.  In a year it might look different.  But for now, this is enough.

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