I’m reading a book titled ‘This is the Place’ and it’s a compilation of short essays written by women about their homes. I chose this book because it is written by women and because of the subject matter. I’m on year three of being a stay-at-home mom and have at least another five years to go, so my home is my everything.
In addition, my family is redefining home. We’re expecting a baby girl in early July and we’re moving westward to Salt Lake City, Utah. Jen has longed for the mountains, the work ethic and the kindness that envelops Salt Lake. She was raised there and wants Danny to experience a city she’s always cherished. We’re also very excited to live closer to her mother. Many adventures await us; however, leaving our community and Baltimore home is already breaking my heart.
About five years ago we discussed moving to Salt Lake City, but it didn’t become definitive until this past fall. Even then, reality didn’t hit until early February when we met with a realtor to create a timeline to list our home.
“Let’s list in March, April at the latest,” our realtor suggested. My head started spinning and my heart began crying. I did not expect such quick movement.
Our realtor asked us to depersonalize our home and to clear it out as much as possible. I heeded her advice and began that very night. I removed a lot of my son’s artwork from the walls, windows and cabinets. I took down family photos, our entire upstairs hallway was plastered with them. I stayed up much too late packing everything I had removed and when I woke the next day, I woke to a house, not my home.
Baltimore has been home for the past 19 years, my Patterson Park residence has been home for the past 11 years. It has served as a refuge for broken hearts and at-risk youth; a temporary home to traveling nurses, doctors, and medical students; an address for friends and most recently the gathering space for ours and Danny’s closest and most loved friends.
Now that we are months into the decluttering phase, almost everything that defined our home has disappeared. Our kitchen table: gone. Our 6-foot-tall bookshelves: also gone. There isn’t a single clue on the first floor that a child lives in the house. The space is foreign and barren and its heart echoes our sadness.
Almost every moment I spend in the house, I think, “This is no longer my home. It is just a house.” And as each day passes, something else about the house or my life in Baltimore stings me to the core.
Today, it was a couple of moments with Lucas, my second son. His father and I played football together for several years and I’m one of his oldest friends in Baltimore. When I decided to become a stay-at-home mom, I knew I wanted to watch another kid. I figured Lucas was on his way into this world, so he could be Danny’s little brother and he fits the bill very well! Ever since Lucas turned three months old, he’s spent almost every day with us. He turns three in May and he’s so much a part of our family that he’s vacationing with us in South Carolina in June for an entire week without his parents.
Lucas. He stung me today. He made me cry twice in a matter of hours and gave me a preview of the complete and utter meltdown I will experience when I complete the daunting and heart-wrenching task of telling him goodbye in the fall.
The first moment was when I arrived at school after running two loads of boxes to our storage unit. Lucas spotted me on the sidewalk and gleefully yelled, “Auntieeeeeee!!!” He ran to me with arms wide open and a gigantic smile on his face. I squatted to greet him and he nearly knocked me over, because he jumped into my arms and wrapped himself around me more tightly than he’s done since he was an infant. I wasn’t expecting that hug or love at that moment in time.
Later in the day as I packed our car for a brief visit to Salt Lake City to visit preschools and prospective work, Lucas asked, “Auntie, where are we going?” I responded by telling him we were going to Salt Lake. He followed up with a concerned look on his face and said, “Can I come?” I already knew how this was going to play out, but I couldn’t avoid it. “Not this time, buddy. You can come on vacation with us when we go to the beach in a couple of months,” I tried reassuring him.
Water works! Disappointment struck his face and he repeatedly wailed, “I want my mommy!” This soon-to-be 3-year-old already knows and understands the profoundness of love. This is the type of love Lucas and I share with one another. This is the love I, too, learned at a young age and have known my entire life.
When someone becomes close with the S’mores Family (as Jen and I affectionally call ourselves), they become family and are loved exorbitantly. We also apply this love to our professions, patients, students, cooking, holidays and to our home. We don’t know how to half ass love. Nor do we want to do that.
We want to love people and our lives so much that when our home becomes a house, we weep. I’ll cry about our home no longer being the gathering space for friends. I’ll cry about the missing photos from our fridge. I’ll cry about the missing filled-to-capacity shoe rack when you enter our home. I’ll cry about no longer hearing our neighbor Des shout at the back door, “It’s me, open up.”
Most of all, I’ll cry about no longer living within driving or walking distance to Gma, Gpop, my first “wife” Angie, our Milton gang, Al, Letty and my baby Lucas. These people are Baltimore. Almost anything we did in the city, we did with them. Story time, Zumbini, all of the museums, the symphony, many trekked miles in southeast Baltimore, consumed margaritas, beers and crabs, watching the Kinetic Sculpture race, doing art at the Creative Alliance, participating in the Lantern Parade, concerts in the Park and cheering on our beloved O’s. It was all done with these people.
They are Baltimore, they are family, and they are my home.
Come the fall, we leave behind our home, an empty house and Baltimore. Our love, though, that will forever reside with and for those individuals who have helped us create a most enjoyable home in Baltimore.
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