Sunday, April 21, 2013

Family Collage

We are getting ready to put our house on the market.  I don't know what your house is like but for us this is a project.  I have a girlfriend who has sold several houses.  They spend one weekend straightening closets and cleaning and they are ready to roll.  That is not how we live.  Not that the house is dirty, there are just a few unfinished projects always lurking.  And we aren't great an preventative maintenance so there are a few rooms that need paint, leaky faucets that need to be replaced, and a couple cabinet doors to put on.  Plus, contractors tend to accumulate contract materials.  So our storage room/work room/garage is a little over run with hardwood flooring, old sinks, doors, paint, shower pans, etc.  Things we might want someday so we toss in the corner.  But now we need it all gone.  Or at least out of the way...So we are also looking at dumpster options.

Those things are on John's punch list and he is busy working through it.  My list is more about purging, straightening closets and packing up superfluous items throughout our house.  This week I was in Jake and Isabelle's rooms.  I try to let my kids rooms be a reflection of who they are.  

Part of the wall in Jake's room.
Jake was 8 when we moved here.  About a year before we bought this house I did a big room makeover at the old house including painting one of the walls to look like a cabin.  We were going for that nature room look.  It was great but a lot of work.  The new room was bigger and I couldn't get excited for that level of detail.  So he ended up with a similar paint color on the walls and some framed prints of wild animals.  There is his foundation.  Jake slowly started adding to his wall like it was a giant cork board.  I think the first thing he added to his wall was a group picture from a jr high camp he went on.  Then some scout patches that didn't go on the uniform.  When he started being part of school plays his stars and pictures from that went up, wrestling posters, and his Kenyan souvenirs.  His room would never have been in a magazine but I loved it, it was like a timeline of his youth.

No pictures of the door. :(
Isabelle's room was born a nursery.  It is still a dark pink color that I love and think has transitioned out of the preschool years nicely but she thinks is too baby.  Like Jake she made her mark on a room that started out perfectly styled by mom.  She discovered stickers and tape around age 4 and would confiscate pictures of herself and people she loved to tape to the wall.  One day she stuck an entire sheet of butterfly stickers to the floor near the door.  They stuck tight and became a fluttering entrance to her space.  And then there was her door.  It started with name stickers.  If she came home with a name sticker on her back it would likely end up on her door.  Then she discovered my label maker and the alphabet went up.  When she learned to spell a few phrases followed.  And then a sheet of pet shop stickers.  I believe some of her cousins helped contribute to the collage over the years as well.  And it became a door that announced Isabelle and put her mark on her space.

Those marks are gone, Jake's walls are bare and the many holes patched.  Isabelle's stickers have been scraped off and thrown away.  And I grieved a little as I scraped and packed.

I stood in Jake's room today.  Walls bare and ready for paint, all his stuff packed and piled in the middle of the room and was ready for a wave of grief to hit me, but it never came. I realized it was just a room.  We may be leaving this space behind but we aren't leaving him behind.

We raise our children to leave us.  To move out and start lives of their own.  While the releasing can be hard, seeing them go out into the world and begin a life of their own is the goal of parenting.  Leaving our home doesn't have to mean leaving our family or disappearing from our lives.

As Jake goes off to start a life of his own, John and I are going on to a new life as well.  

When I married and left home my parents stayed put.  Same jobs, same home, same life.  They did turn my room into an office but everything else from my childhood stayed pretty much the same.  My youth always sitting there waiting for me to go visit.  By the time my parents finally left I was well established in my own life and was ready to see them go out and have a new adventure.

As we were packing up the house I worried I would never feel at home in their new place, worried I was loosing home.  Yet from the moment they moved in it has felt like they have always been there, and the whole family has always been a part of it.  

It turns out it isn't about a place or stuff. It is about the people, family traditions and the unconditional, unchanging love for each other we take wherever we go.

Isabelle will follow us to a new home and make her mark. It won't be the mark of an immature toddler but of a maturing young woman.  She will tack the timeline of her youth to the walls of her new room.  Jake however probably won't make any significant mark on our next house.  He will be there, he will be with us this summer and hopefully a few more weekends and summers in the future but his room will only be a stop over place from now on, not a place to set down roots and make a mark.  Yet his presence in the house will be significant because no matter where he goes he will always be a part of our traditions, the life we lead and what defines us as a family.

So we may peel up the stickers from Isabelle's floor and take down the pictures nailed to Jake's wall but you can never remove the memories of their childhood from our hearts.  As we go forward we will add new experiences and create new traditions in new places.  Jake and Isabelle will find new walls to make their marks and post the new memories.  But in our hearts will be the full family history, past, present, future; a beautiful collage of who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming.

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