A different kind of falling

This house of mine and me, we’re not the stuff of fairy tales. I did not fall in love with her at first sight (or second or third or fourth…), and while I’m hoping we’ll live happily together I don’t think it will be ever after. (But you never know, do you? You really never know. Boy, haven’t I learned that.) Ours is a practical  union, forged by the things each of us needs and can provide the other.

We’ve been together since mid-May. I’m still not all unpacked, and the kids’ rooms were a disaster for a good two months and still aren’t functional. (But they don’t live here, so that doesn’t really matter. Hate to think how much energy I’ve wasted on things that don’t really matter.)

At first, for a lot of reasons having little to do with the new house and everything to do with why I left the old one, I didn’t like her much. Oh, I tried, but some nights I wandered alone around her rooms with “Once in a Lifetime” playing on repeat in my head, feeling like somehow things had gotten completely away from me. Even though I’d made my choices consciously and knowingly, even though I felt, given the things I’d accepted I could not change, that I’d made the right ones, my brain couldn’t stop singing, My God, what have I done?

At first, I thought I would move the things I loved best from the old house into the new, and that would make it feel like home.

It didn’t.

None of them really fit in this new house, which I blamed on the house. But to be honest (which I was having a hard time being with myself), my heart was broken. There was no sexy new romance of any kind (house or otherwise) to keep me from feeling all of its jagged edges, and those reminders of what I once had just made me feel my losses more deeply.

One low day I took down all the art I most associated with Cane and the life we’d had together and put them out in the garage. That felt better, and I began to understand that it wasn’t the new house’s fault that our things didn’t fit within her walls. I began giving previously beloved items away, keeping only those that didn’t carry strong memories of what once was.

I also started bringing out things that had been stored in boxes for years, things from my family. At the same time I was moving, my grandmother died. When I returned from her funeral with items from her home,  I found that they didn’t fill me with sadness, even though they, like those from my old house, might have been fused in my heart and head with loss. Instead, they grounded me in who I was back in the beginning of my life, before I ever had a home of my own. Sometimes they made me sad, too, but it felt like the right kind of sad.

I kept telling myself that I needed to unpack the boxes with practical things, but instead I spent hours arranging sentimental objects and working in the garden, pulling and deadheading and cutting back and planting. Those tasks felt more necessary than finding my extra towels or kitchen gadgets.

As I did those things, I started to feel flickers of affection for the new house. I began to feel her charms, not just tell myself that she has them, and when a trip away went several kinds of wrong and I longed to go home, it was this house, not my earlier one, that I wanted.

Still, it’s been a process. It is a process. We’re a work in progress, the house and me.  When I’m really not feeling it from or for her, I sometimes pick up my camera and wander the rooms and garden looking for things I can love. I zoom in close, so I can truly see them, framing them from different angles in order to find the ones most pleasing. (As my friend Kate recently said to me, “there’s something to be said for cropping.”)

I’m finding that love this time–for the house, for my life in it, for my new, transforming-yet-again self–is not about a sudden falling. There isn’t even anything I could call love yet, but there is gratitude, and it is something that’s growing through the small things I’m collecting and discovering and doing over time:

A bouquet I cut from the hydrangea bush and arranged in a pitcher on the kitchen table.

The way the afternoon light spills across the sofa now that we’ve thinned the shrubs in front of the windows.

My mother’s childhood milk cup placed against the backdrop of a thrift store painting.

Morning birdsong in the weedy part of the yard I haven’t yet tamed (and might not).

A quilt top my great-grandmother pieced and that I spread on the bed in what will be my son’s new room.

The patina of a worn dresser that’s become a potting table in the greenhouse, where I hope to grow flowers and vegetables from seeds next spring.

The more I’ve noticed, the more I’ve realized that the things turning this house into home are those I could take to or create in any place I might live. They are things with the right kind of history. They are the things of and from me, not the architecture that surrounds me–things I can carry with me when I once again find myself starting over. Because some day I will. Isn’t life always the same as it ever was, in more ways than it sometimes feels we can hardly bear knowing?

16 thoughts on “A different kind of falling

  1. Kate says:

    I am so sorry about the hurt and the heartache that ultimately led up to this move. We’ve been here for almost six years now and I still struggle with the things that I loved in our old house that just don’t fit within this one (especially when they’re perfectly good things) and I get frustrated. Your pictures are beautiful. They make your home look cozy, comfortable, warm, inviting. And so many growing things!! I hope you continue to find small things that bring you joy there. Wishing you many happy and peaceful moments so that while it may not be a passionate love affair – you’ll continue to look forward to returning home.

    • Rita says:

      Thanks, Kate. I appreciate the good wishes. We found so many good treasures during our time of living in the old house, and it was hard to let them go. I love a good find, so it felt a little like giving up treasure. The house I’m in now is half the size of the one old one. The rooms are so much smaller that almost no furniture made the cut. We were lucky that the buyers wanted to buy most of it. Didn’t have to move it or deal with trying to sell it in other ways. I am realizing, though, that home really isn’t about the things in it. It partly is, but it’s way more about the living that happens there. I’m working on getting my passion back. Haven’t given up on that yet. 🙂

    • Rita says:

      Hi Katherine! I love that corner window, too. I was determined to find a house that fit my practical needs, and I told myself that there only needed to be one thing I loved. That corner window was it. Always have wanted one of those.

  2. Kari Wagner Hoban says:

    I love this post so much. You can write what you are feeling SO well; I want to work on that especially as Anna leaves the nest this week. I am so grateful for you and your writing. I feel like I was meant to find you years ago in preparation for this week coming up.

    And that home is beautiful because you are filling it with love. It is lucky to have you.

    • Rita says:

      Oh, you’ve been much on my mind this week. You know how people told you all kinds of things about how it would be before you had a baby, but you couldn’t really understand until you had the baby? It’s the same when the baby leaves for college. It’s such a momentous thing. Painful and wonderful (and painful) all tangled together. Kinda like having a baby. Only not. See–too hard to put into words. But I’m looking forward to reading yours about it. In the meantime, holding you close in my thoughts as you both make this transition.

  3. Marian says:

    Beautiful writing in this post, Rita, and so much that resonates. We’ve moved house three times, in a major way each time, done (supposedly) with full knowledge and thinking-it-out and agreement . . . and each time, I’ve arrived at the new and felt so keenly the loss of what was, and thought, “Oh, God, what have we done?”
    This last move was the hardest. I HATED the house and the work and the ick and the loss of something I had been *this close* to achieving (or so I imagined) and yet, in the midst of all that, one night, early on, as I was checking the door to the garage before bed, the phrase “I love this house” popped bizarrely into my head. “No, I don’t!” the very next thought countered, belligerently. Each night from then on that phrase popped into my head. (Sigh, OCD?) Although it took months (years?), it now feels true; weirdly, it feels like the house was goading me, or challenging me to some sort of reciprocal bargain, an “I’ll do this for you, and you will do this for me” type thing. I guess it won.
    I love what you wrote about objects — it’s so true, the way some can ground us, and others just cause us pain, and even though it hurts to let them go, it’s probably the best thing to do. Reminders don’t let us move on, do they?
    I’m glad you’re finding a way through all this. Sending you a hug, Rita.
    (And yes, the light from that corner window is so lovely.)

    • Rita says:

      Thanks for the hug, and for the story of you and your house. You know, that corner window is lovely. Speaking of corners, I think I’ve finally turned one. Thank you for the good wishes and support.

  4. DeborahS says:

    It takes a while to truly make a house your own, but I think the work and effort is well worth it. You’re fortunate to have found a house that (to me anyway, from your photos) looks like it ‘has good bones’. That gorgeous corner window. The light. The clean lines and white walls. So much you can do to grow into it, and have it grow into you.
    I’m sure it won’t be easy, but do I hope that with time it will feel worth the effort, and that you’ll come to feel that it is really your place.
    In the meantime, all good wishes from here over the pond.
    DeborahS recently posted…Five (good) things on Friday (17 August 2018)My Profile

    • Rita says:

      Ah, thank you Deborah. It really does have good bones. She’s a good little house, and we’re finding our way to each other. 🙂

  5. t says:

    I appreciate your honesty, Rita. I have been reading your blog for years and in effect about your life.

    This little house is adorable and I hope that, in time, it will come to feel like home. I would feel a sense of relief that the new owners kept so much of the furniture from your old house (and life). You can start fresh and do things as you like – in time. I enjoy the glimpses you have provided here – especially that corner window. I, too, find meaning in the things from family members – although I might be sad, I am so happy to use something that was theirs – I feel grounded and connected.

    • Rita says:

      Thank you. I forget sometimes that there are people who read that I don’t “know.” It was really nice that the new owners wanted to much of the furniture. It was nice not to have to move it, and it was nice to feel that those things we found were appreciated by someone else. Making that house was as much a creative act as writing this blog is. It’s nice to know when your work resonates with someone–thank you for letting me know that my writing means something to you.

  6. Linda Nichols says:

    Rita, I don’t know you, but I’ve read both your blogs for a long time. I wish you well and pray you will be happy again.

  7. Andrea says:

    This is my first visit here and what a beautiful way to start (I found my way from Kari). Such perfect words! Now I will think of you when I go to a David Byrne concert in a couple of weeks, as that song always shows itself. Keep cropping!

  8. TD says:

    Dear Rita, I am so happy to find you writing again. The last I read was your post in January, essay with the words “stepping off the red curb”! It took me a while to fully comprehend its meaning, but I got!!! Yikes.

    You might remember me as a reader as I have written to you on your space. I always find meaningful words here; great wisdom from you and your readers who share. I love the exchange of life experiences.

    I, too, have been extremely busy in process of transition into the next phase life of aging. Searching, travel, in quest to find affordable life of a future. I have been engaged in relocation of home, sell of and purchase of the next place to call home. Thursday, I met with another realtor to discuss the sale of my property. I didn’t sign the exclusive agreement as of yet. Two weeks ago the word “Borax” came out of the mouth of, yes, my plumber as he was replacing the o-ring on the toilet and setting a new faucet in the kitchen sink. And your essay with your maintenance assistant popped into my mind, hysterically, as I don’t stock any toxic cleaners!! My tiny bit to save the planet. Plumber’s younger eyes went wide open in “unbelievable”.

    Friday, I continued to prepare my property for sale. At 11am I went to change my clothes because I needed to run up to my vet’s office to pickup meds, for my dogs staph infection, which is when I noticed a rash all over my back and stomach. What!??? I called my doc’s office immediately to just let my doc know that I thought I was experiencing high anxiety…just to report the rash. That rash went through my arms symmetrically into the palm of my hands out to my fingers within a 24 hour period.

    Reading your essay, “unpacking”, home, reached me at exactly the right timing! I have no known home to go to… and it is completely unknown if my property will sell. I’m on the take 5 minute chucks at a time. Our health: body and mind are so connected. Last night I thought that my body was responding similar to a visual meditation of breathe the positive energy and release the negative energy. I have a hunch that is what was happening in real time on Friday.

    Saturday, my potential realtor set a “coming soon” signage with my okay and anticipation to sign exclusive sales agreement and photo shoot Monday morning. It made it real!

    Nothing else is happening right now, until it does. 5 minute chunks.
    …that feeling of anxiety about to step off the red curb.

    Your home is lovely!!!

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