Milestones are an opportunity to reflect. Ten years ago this month, my little family of three moved into our current home. It was an impossible move that kind of, sort of made no sense at the time, but it was a move rooted in hope.
In March 2007 we were casually looking at new digs. There was no pressing need to move, no second baby warming in the oven, no sense of growing out of our space in the near future. In hindsight, I don’t even remember why we were looking exactly. We had a lovely home with friendly neighbors.
On a cold and snowy Sunday afternoon, we decided to take a drive together to comfort our young daughter, just a 19 month old toddler, who was fussing. We drove around some local streets and noticed a few open house signs. Donna was finally comfortable when we rolled past one such sign for a condo that was just a short walk away from our favorite park. I suggested I hop out and do some quick recon, only bringing in the family if it looked promising.
It did look promising. It was lovely and almost twice the size of our previous digs. Closets for days. It had room for a washer and dryer that weren’t stacked and there was a pantry. The kicker, for me, was a sunny playroom. I was smitten. I ran outside and told the husband to park the car — this was a home he should see.
A couple of days later we put an offer on it. SOLD. A few days after that, our fussy toddler was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor and required emergency surgery. The developer very kindly agreed to let us off the hook after hearing of our girl’s cancer.
We chose hope instead. In a walk-through we did before putting in an offer, when we asked Donna if she would like to live here, she easily said, “Yes! This is my home!” Her words felt prescient. Is it crazy to make a decision based on the whims of a toddler? Yes, absolutely, but dang if toddlers don’t have a clarity and wisdom that is often missing in us grown up folks. We thanked the developer for his kind offer and decided to move forward.
Before we closed, Donna had relapsed. We learned that her brain cancer had migrated to her lungs and she would require a second tumor resection followed by some hard core chemo. Our hopeful choice to move suddenly felt overwhelming in the midst of guiding our girl through cancer and chemo.
Cue the friends and family.
Within a few days, an email chain was circulating looking for volunteers to help us pack and unpack. My husband’s father flew in from Massachusetts to organize an army of beautiful people who came in shifts to pack up our home. Other friends offered us their place to stay while they were on vacation. Donna and I were dispatched there to recover from her second round of high dose chemo while about 25 of the kindest folks I will ever know worked to get us packed up. It was almost completely done at the end of the first day.
Other friends met the moving trucks in our new home and unpacked what others had packed. Donna’s room was painted the same cheerful orange color of her old nursery and her old curtains were hung so she would feel a sense of familiarity. Our mortgage broker solicited a crew of professional organizers to donate their time to help us get settled. On a Saturday morning I walked out of our old home as if I was just away for an overnight and a few days later walked into our new home with everything unpacked and waiting for us. Even the moving boxes had been recycled.
I will never, ever forget the kindness that was shown to us by so many folks who wanted to help our little struggling family during those days. My eyes are welling up as I remember their generosity and compassion. How do you replay that? I still don’t know.
Ten years ago we moved into our home. We had one daughter. Now we have two sons. They share the room that was Donna’s. It is no longer orange, but it is still overflowing with stuffed animals and books and children’s laughter and toys.
It’s impossible to think about this ten year milestone in our home and not think of our dear girl and the people who surrounded us with such love and kindness and cardboard and packing tape.
So grateful for all of it.
Filed under: Retrospectives