You might know that this summer, the housing market was definitely favoring sellers. This made for the perfect opportunity to look for house that was more suited to two people, now that Nina was off starting her adult life and it was just Mike and me in our big house. Mike had been thinking about this for years, he was the one that was working his tail off to pay for it, but I dug my heels in whenever the conversation came up. I know that it was probably a little unfair of me, but it wasn’t just because I loved our house (though I did). The main reason was that Matthew had lived in that house and there was proof all around us. There were dents in walls, handprints left behind, and greasy little face prints on windows all over the house. I know that it sounds gross that in the eight years since our sweet boy passed away, we hadn’t washed the windows, but I can promise this, you wouldn’t have either.
I warmed up slowly to the idea of spending time on the weekends looking at houses that were on the market, but still, I wasn’t planning on moving. There were a few that I really liked, in theory, but the thought of packing 18 years worth of stuff was very daunting to say the least, not to mention packing up Matthew’s room and toys. For me, it was just something to do on the weekends when I wasn’t teaching yoga. At least until friends of ours sold their house and downsized. When they shared with us what they thought our house could sell for, it seemed worth while to at least talk to a realtor.
Full disclosure, our house was big and had a great pool in the backyard, and after Matthew, and then Nina leaving for college and eventually her job, Mike and I really didn’t have the motivation to keep up with it as much as we should have. Because of this, we figured (or at least I figured) that the realtor would come and tell us what we needed to do in order to fix it up to sell, and then we would decide to stay or list it. Little did we know that without doing anything but keeping it clean, our house would sell within a day of meeting with our realtor. And not to sound cliche, it was an offer we couldn’t refuse. This started the ball rolling on one of the craziest, most stressful months of our married lives (and trust me, we had some stressful times at the Zarrillo house).
With only a month to get out, and nowhere to go when we did, we got moving. We made a list of what we wanted in our new house. We decided we wanted a new build, no brick on the outside, a really small yard, and something with four bedrooms (one of them needed to be for Matthew’s things and that was a deal breaker for me). We looked at houses the rest of the long Memorial Day weekend, and found one that we both really liked. It was in a 10 year-old neighborhood and one of the few brick houses in the entire subdivision, but it did have four bedrooms. We put an offer in and began setting up our plan of attack for the move. The whole decision making process happened in four days!!
Without going into too much detail, mostly so I don’t have to relive it, we packed up 18 years worth of memories in one month, playing the worst game ever: keep, storage, donate, trash. We were as ready to go as we were ever going to be. When the house was packed and the night finally came for us to say goodbye, it was awful. We moved before, actually quite a few times since we’ve been married, but we never had the emotional connection like this time. The house on Smokey Hollow was not just a house, it was our home! It was the place that we raised our kids, seen them grow and play, and there were memories in every inch of it. Saying goodbye to our house was like loosing Matthew all over again. I walked from room to room, soaking it all in with tears streaming down my face. Then the next thing I knew, Sally, Mike and I were in a hotel half way between our old home and the new house (the dogs were on vacation for the week). Looking back now, it was probably a very good thing that it happened so quickly. If I had any time to stop and think about what was going on, I’m sure that I would have had a massive panic attack.
Once we got into the new house, the craziness didn’t stop. We set about making it feel like our own. A fresh coat of paint, a newly designed backyard, a room for Nina, and a mural in Matthew’s room. It was helpful to spend time on Matthew’s room because it felt like we brought him along with us.
Now that we have started to slow down, with the house almost to where we want it, the emotions are starting to flood back in and I have started to really process the change. Halloween, one of Matthew’s favorite days of the year, was last week, and it hit me like a brick. I went to 2 yoga classes in the morning, then hunkered down to ride it out. I wanted so much to go in Matthew’s old closet and bury myself in his stuffed animals in the same place that we had done that so many times together. And while we have a place to do that here, it’s not the same. I’m sure that I’ll get used to it in time, but I’m not there just yet.
These next few months are always a little rough for me, but this year it’s been a little worse than it has been in a while. It feels like we have another year of “firsts” to ride out like we had to a little over eight years ago. In the meantime, I’m surrounded by Matthew’s things and he continues to occupy the same space in my heart. As for Nina, I am anxiously waiting for her first visit here since we’ve moved in. I know that once she is here, under this roof with us, we will feel one more step closer to having this feel like home rather than just a house. It really is love and memories that makes a house become a home.