My dear daughter,
A few weeks ago, we told you that we’re moving. You were, to put it mildly, not on board.
We expected you to be thrilled. It’s not a big move, we thought. We’re not leaving the country, the state, the city. We’re not changing schools or even zip codes. We are moving a mile or two south, a few hundred feet higher in elevation, which—to be fair to you, skeptical daughter—puts us firmly outside of our neighborhood and into another one. This is silly (this new place is so close to where we live now) but true, the same kind of silly-but-true that will make your head spin in a few years when you learn that bear and tear rhyme, but fear doesn’t rhyme with either.
In England, the term for this is moving house, and I like this phrase, because this what we’re doing. Moving is vague and includes any number of kinesthetic activity, but moving house is specific. We are moving from one house, this one, to another one, a house that’s being rented to us by dear friends who’ve moved out of the city for a while. It is, by your sister’s Dream House standards, an excellent house, with yards front and back, and “stairs inside.” I, too, once longed for a house with stairs inside, so I understand the dream, and now it’s coming true. For these reasons, the overall goodness of the house and its lack of disruption to the most important of our routines—school, church and friends—I sort of thought you’d be excited.
What I’d forgotten, though, is that you’ve never moved. Not that you can remember, anyway. You’re not your sister, who’d lived in three houses by the time she was as many years old, who’s already had a passport expire and who was learning German words alongside English ones as a toddler. You were born twenty miles away, spent a few months ten miles away, and then you came here. On the morning you’d learned to roll over on your own, I put you in a carseat, drove north through the brand-new tunnel under the city, and parked outside our house. Here.
I’ve spent a good bit of my own life learning that a home is much more than a house. I used to rewrite the beginning of a book called The House on Mango Street for my students, here in Seattle and later in Germany, and we’d talk about all the places I’d lived, and they’d lived. “I didn’t always live on 34th Avenue,” I’d begin. “I didn’t always live on Hammersteinerstrasse.” We didn’t always live here, my daughter. But you, well you mostly lived here, didn’t you?
You learned to walk on the playground around the corner. You made your first friends there, before you could even talk. We spent our year outside here, 2020, months and months of dragging on the same yellow rainsuit that was at first swimming on you, and now barely reaches your wrists or covers your face. We planted and harvested three gardens, Dad’s plans growing more and more elaborate and beautiful. You sat beside your sister in the dining room as she started Zoom preschool, the same dining room where you celebrated your first, second, third and fourth birthdays. We brought a puppy home here, and then another. I pushed you down to the wading pool in a stroller. Then you walked. Then scooted. Now you can ride your balance bike down there, and if I could find a minute to teach you, I bet you could ride with the pedals on in no time. You have, in short, grown up here.
But you’re not grown up, are you? You’re only four.
Maybe that’s what I forgot when I came in and told you, with the hubris of parents everywhere and forever, that “We’re moving and it’s so exciting and YAY! Aren’y you excited?” Maybe I forgot that for you, it’s not moving from one house to a better one, a frictionless change that can only lead to improvement. For you, it’s leaving home. I forgot, or maybe didn’t even know, how supremely happy you are with this home, how when the bigger people around here are lamenting the size of the bathroom or the dilapidated cedar tree blocking the front window, you’re just thrilled to take a bath or watch that tree dance in the wind. For you, this house is perfect because it’s what taught you the meaning of all the words. Room. Wall. Floor. Door. Window. House. Home. This will always be the ruler against which you measure everything new. While this place was a very long sentence—maybe even a paragraph—in the story of the places I’ve lived, for you it’s the only sentence you can remember. It’s the beginning, but for you it’s everything, because you’re only four, still just a beginning yourself.
I’m inspired by your contentment, your wonder. You walk through the world ready to be amazed, delighted, impressed. You’re not looking for the next thing, because everything around you is not just good enough, but incredible. Why would we want to move away from something so good, you ask us? We’ve been so fortunate, I realize, that you can ask this. There are certainly kids younger than you who would have no trouble coming up with reasons to leave their first homes. But you, you’re pretty content with yours.
And I suppose I understand your fear, in a way, though not about moving. I’ve moved dozens of times, and this was one of the easier decisions, the one with the fewest downsides. But there have been other changes, and will be in the future, other alterations to the fabric of how I think life is supposed to be. Like you, I haven’t been able to see anything but the losses. I’m not old enough, and can’t see far enough, to understand how this will turn out in the end. And yes, not all of them have turned out quite as well as I suspect this new house will. But God has asked me to trust anyway, like I’m asking you to trust me, that all will be well, if not exactly the way I’d hoped or imagined. I’m still learning, too. It’s not always easy to trust.
A week after we told you we were moving, you and I got to go see the house ourselves. This house that I already know very well, but you’d never been inside of, we walked through the door and you looked around. Slow circles, wide eyes. You were shy, greeting our friends, but interested. You walked through the house like it was a museum, taking note, growing more confident as you went. You wanted to see inside each closet, and make sure that the basement wasn’t too scary. There were dolls down there, and you were excited about that. Our friends were there, and that made you happy, too. When we left, you asked if we could move today.
I know from my own experience that it might not feel like home our first night. In a month or so we’ll fall asleep in a house filled with half-unpacked boxes, almost certainly after eating pizza, the national meal of movers in America. You’ll hear new sounds, smell new smells, watch the lights on the ceiling and feel like you’re in a different world, though you’re still, I assure you, just two miles away. You’ll miss this place we live now, the sloping floors and the deep old closets and the curved ceilings. You’ll miss it like a friend, and you might be one who—like me—always faintly misses the houses that we’ve loved. In the morning, you’ll wake up with your family, the same four people and two dogs, and there will be breakfast. And there will be a day together. And another and another, each more familiar than the last. I can’t tell you how long it will take, but I suspect that one of those nights, you’ll fall asleep and think, “Oh yes. This is home, too. Another one. Different, but still home.”
Still home, my daughter, because you will be there with people who love you. Home again.
2 Comments Add yours
This is lovely, Kristi.
Wonderfully written! Your girls have some real treasures in your writing that they will enjoy and appreciate when they are older! Hugs to some of our favorite people! Laura
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