Our house is sold, and we've bought another.
In the next few weeks I will pack, sort, store and toss 24 years of living. Fortunately I've always been good at purging, so much of the work has been done already.
There are baby toys that I've saved for my children's (future) children. There are boxes of precious, handwritten letters and birthday cards. There are thousands of photographs, many of them scanned to my computer or saved on a disc -- but how can I possibly throw away those original prints, faded and curling at the edges? Those photos are my history.
There's my wedding dress, carefully packed away almost 26 years ago. I will say goodbye to it.
There are delicate, fragile things, glass figurines and tiny boxes, gossamer-like linen napkins, that came to me from my grandmother when she died. There are too many pieces of costume jewelry, most of which I never wear. There are hundreds of novels, loved and with me for decades. There are dozens of cookbooks -- and I rarely cook anymore. There are 20 years of handwritten, color-coded calendars for my family, until my son went away to college. There are mixing bowls, cookie sheets galore, an abundance of Pyrex baking dishes, 13" x 9". There are two sets of stainless flatware, 12 place settings each. There are two sets of everyday dishes, one set of fine China, two sets of 12 place settings of sterling silver flatware, dozens of cloth napkins and at least 10 tablecloths.
We are selling our formal dining room set, so the tablecloths have to go, along with most of the napkins. The problem is, no one wants a formal dining room anymore. But we are hopeful someone will take it home and celebrate Thanksgiving, Passover and more seated around it like we did for so many years.
We are selling a lot of things. Chairs and lamps and a big leather ottoman where we put our feet up at night while we watch TV. Bookshelves and crystal bowls, throw pillows and antique sconces, lovely and delicate and far too formal for our new home near the beach.
Our kitchen table and chairs where we ate thousands of meals with our children when they were growing up -- it has to go, because the chairs are uncomfortable and the wood is too dark for the new house. I imagine that table holds all the words we ever said to each other, mingled with Lemon Pledge and spilled spaghetti sauce.
We are unloading and brightening. The colors will be lighter, our possessions fewer, our home smaller. But even as we are lightening up, we are expanding our lives -- a new place, a new lifestyle, a new point of view. By downsizing we are increasing everything -- except square footage and stuff.
I am not feeling sad -- yet. The excitement and busyness of buying a new home and all that goes with it are keeping me from thinking about the fact that this house will, in just a few short weeks, no longer be our home. My children, all grown up, are having a harder time than I am. When we took my son to see the house and asked what he thought he said, "It's a great house, but it's not home."
And it will never be our home in the same way, for my husband and me. In our new home we will be on our own in a way we haven't ever been -- our children raised, the future about us. We'll create a new normal, with new memories of midlife. My husband will sit on the front porch and wave at the neighbors as they walk by, our dog Lambeau next to him. I will join him, sometimes. But not always.
Instead of getting in our car every time we want to go somewhere or do something, we can walk a few blocks and there are restaurants, boutiques, friends. Why this makes me so happy I'm not sure, but it does.
A half a block and across the street the other way is the ocean. That makes me happy too.
We will let so much go in the next few weeks -- sold or stored or recycled or donated -- but we are making room for so much new. And we need new. Because even at midlife, there's the desire for change, for different, for excitement, for challenge. Those are the things that keep us on our toes, keep us feeling energized and hopeful and alive.
Previously published on Empty House Full Mind