The word on our local streets, even before we had confirmed the decision in our hearts, is that we would be moving from our condo to a stand alone home, one that has already been made accessible, a dream come true for our family. However, as we packed up and purged our possessions , cleaned out closets and cupboards, downsized where we were able, I could not help but grow weepy. Never attached to items per se, I have incredible attachment to places and people. As a kid, I could never imagine living anywhere but the suburban town where I grew roots and confidence. Now a resident of New Hampshire’s North Country for 20 years, I’ve officially lived here longer than the town which raised me.
When we first shared with the kids that we were going to look out a house, our daughter grew excited about the prospect of having her own room, one with her own closet and door. Our son, on the other hand, sobbed repeatedly with the refrain, “But, Mom, we are little house people–why would we move,” over and over, and he’s right. We are totally little house people and grew our family, two children, one turtle, one dog, several fish, two hermit crabs, and assorted stuffed animals in a condo in a neighborhood we love fiercely. I will cry undoubtedly as we pull away knowing a simplicity of life has shifted in our “village” where our kids ride their bikes to their grandparents’ house, to Wayne’s for worms to fish with or for chips or hot dogs for an unexpected barbecue, or even to our local ice cream shop, Coneheads, with a friend for an icy treat.
But here’s why I know we are making the right decision:
We weren’t looking to move. Well, we would look from time to time, but the prospect of selling our place and finding an accessible home to move into at the EXACT same time, one we wouldn’t have to drop a lot of cash into, seemed impossible. Then the phone call came from a mutual friend asking if we would consider a house swap with Danny and Cheryl Bourassa. They needed to be in a condo complex with less to take care of, and they just knew that we needed more space. They were right. This was meant to be. Not only did we know the couple who wanted to live in our space, we loved and revered them as really good humans. We could not have hand picked better people, and both of us recognized we could trade what the other family needed more.
So as I taped together box after box and examined the debris of our 13 years together here, Geoff another 12 with assorted roommates and friends BH (before Heather), I’m left with the warmest walls and memories of being newly married, and then later with our babies, and friends– the neighbors, both full-timers and part-timers, whose smiles and conversations and reminders to our children about staying on the side of the road with their bikes, scooters and skateboards are forever part of our muscle memory. I know our kids will remember this first village fondly, for these were the streets they learned to toddle on, the spring puddles they splashed in with rain boots and bare toes, the pond to fish in, the snowbanks to sled down and ski upon and build snow families; these woods were their first to hike and ride bikes through the mud, a first winter camp fire with hot cocoa and headlamps, sledding parties, and backyard barbecues. This downtown village gave them their first independence and responsibility for picking up the mail from Postmaster Kim or crossing the “safest” spot, the crosswalk in front of the Woodstock Station and Uncle Kenny’s photo shop, now also known as Jamie Harrington’s hair salon.
These experiences won’t end because we are moving out; we will return to visit regularly. The only difference is that we will return to our new home at the end of the day, a yard with a garden, and a garage for our bicycles and fishing poles and river tubes, a barn for Geoff’s gear, space enough to roam and maybe even for me to hide from time to time. Our first day of school photos will take place in front of another front door, which isn’t brick red. The wheelchair ramp we literally just built this summer will let the new owners more easily access the back yard, which is just about the best backyard in the world of condo living. Our new home has woods for our kids to explore, apple trees to pick from, and a sweet spot for a fire pit we can’t get in trouble for per condo association rules. The potential for this next home is exponential, but I’m sure there will be tears that first night we settle in to new bedrooms, new bus stop, and adjust to new rules about the road. I love our little home as much as the big hearted people who have surrounded it and us all these years.
Thank you to Jayne Duguay for that first phone call and especially to Danny and Cheryl Bourassa for facilitating possibly the best reality house swap ever and helping our kids with the transition offering special ice cream every visit and encouraging them to set up their rooms long before you actually moved out. Thank you to our friends, especially mine, for loading and unloading so, so many boxes over the last two weeks. Thank you to our families for keeping the excitement and enthusiasm in the same vein as when you moved us to college all those years ago. Lastly, thank you to our neighbors, too many good ones to name, in our village where we first became a family. We will miss you, even those who complained about all our activities– yes, even you too. We will close on Friday, August 30, (thank you also to friend Meghan Smith from Conklin for answering all of my crazy questions) and a posse of people with trucks will show up to help us move the last of the heavy furniture, along with our hearts over to our new place. Thank you!