We recently sold our first home. It was one of those experiences that was so bittersweet and emotional. It was the perfect house, in the perfect neighbourhood. It was our first major purchase together. We were childless, but a home suddenly made us feel like a tiny family. It was where we eventually brought our three babies home. Where we celebrated promotions and pregnancies. Where we grieved over the passing of my husband’s father and the injustices of the world. It was the respite at the end of the long day.
Our pink stucco split-level house was situated on one of the most beautiful streets in our town. Over the span of a few weeks my husband and I had looked at upwards of twenty five houses and I knew that this was it from the moment I saw it. Our cul de sac was hidden behind another street, bordered by an old orchard that rolled down to the river, and backing a beautiful little field hidden from view. Most people never even knew our street existed. A piece of the country in suburbia. The soaring ceilings and landscaped backyard captured our imaginations… just think of all the memories we could make with little ones! Our kitchen window let in the final rays of the sunset, and I ended up spending countless evenings with a cup of tea watching the sun dip behind the trees in the back field. We were thrilled with the tiny master bathroom too! How exciting to be able to not leave the bedroom to brush your teeth (truly a miracle after the cramped 500 square foot flat we rented while living in the Caribbean). Even the basement was finished and had a crawl space perfect for storage. We made an offer in the kitchen that very day. It was ours by the next week.
Time passed quickly. We loved our house and were thrilled to show it off to our parents. We felt like proper adults. I remember convincing my husband to buy a dark wood bedroom set for our master, because that is what grown-ups did. Adults have matching furniture instead of a futon and random Ikea pieces left over from university. Our first baby arrived and we enlisted my father to paint the nursery a soft teal and Wainscott the walls. It was the perfect ocean themed nursery. More years passed. Our second was about to arrive. We painted the spare bedroom pink and moved the guest bedroom to the basement.
We loved that house. It was the perfect home… until it wasn’t. One day on my way home from work I noticed a sale sign on the Orchard. Not long after that the dump trucks arrived. Land was torn up, the peaceful atmosphere disappeared. A major home developer had bought the orchard and planned twenty houses where the lone white farmhouse once stood. It was exciting to watch the new neighbourhood begin, but sad to see the river view and trees disappear. Our oven broke, followed by our dishwasher. The kitchen was in need of some renovations, so we spent countless hours planning a dreamy culinary escape, only to be curtailed by a budget that once seemed extravagant, but grew smaller and smaller once tile and appliances added up. Then a large billboard sign proclaimed that the field behind us had been rezoned. They were planning ten houses in our backyard! Our gorgeous sunsets were going to be replaced by a 24/7 beige stucco two storey house. Once built, we discovered that it took out the entire sky, too.
We were thrilled to find out we were pregnant with our third child! We bought bunk beds when we discovered how tiny the upstairs rooms were. We ran out of storage, and came to the shocking conclusion that there had never been any closet space at the main garage entry, so as the children multiplied, so did the coats and shoes in the narrow hallway. We raided Home Depot for storage solutions. We suddenly became aware that four flights of stairs and toddlers were not a good mix. Our laundry room shrunk overnight and it literally wasn’t until our third daughter arrived that I realized the main bathroom did not contain one drawer! How had I never noticed this before? It became painfully clear that we had outgrown our precious home.
I have been asked many times if it was hard to leave our first house behind. Did saying goodbye to all of the memories and firsts made me sad? I would be lying if I said I had not shed a tear on the last day, walking through the empty, echoing rooms and remembering all we had been through. How we had become a family under this roof. Driving away and watching the sold sign shrink in my rearview mirror felt frighteningly final. But the truth is that we never left the memories behind. We just carried them with us. A home truly is where your family is. I know this now without a doubt. We had beautiful moments and some of the best days of our lives in our pink palace, but by the end, we had outgrown it. I will forever remember it fondly, but it is rather absurd to think that by leaving a physical place you could ever leave behind all of the intangible emotions and events, after all, life is about memories and experiences, not possessions.
Photo credit : tmw photography
Natalie is an educator in St. Albert, Alberta. She is the mother of three incredible little girls under 6, and one evil cat. She is passionate about adventure travel, culture and running.