The first house my husband and I owned together he picked without me. We'd been house hunting unsuccessfully around Milwaukee for a couple of years, and it was getting too difficult for me emotionally to look at a house and mentally paint the walls new colors just to have someone else get their offer accepted on it first. I was crushed every time, and we decided that Ian knew enough of what I wanted to look without me and choose wisely. So when he picked out the blue and grey corner house a couple of blocks from the railroad tracks in Bay View, I didn't see it until the final walk through before the closing. If I ever need proof I trust my husband, that's it.
I loved that house. We put a lot of work into it. A LOT of work. It's the house all my babies came home to. It's the last place my grandma got to come visit us here. It's where I built my first instrument on my own after four years of violin making school. It's where we buried our first pet bunny after she was killed by a cat. It was within those walls that I experienced some of my greatest joys and suffered some of my hardest lessons.
But it didn't have closets.
I'm an extremely sentimental person, but at some point the crowding of five of us in that space was breaking my sanity simply trying to keep things organized. And when the house across the street--a house I had adored from the first time I visited our neighbors there and seen the built in china cabinets and the amble counter space and the fireplace and, yes, the closets--came up for sale, we scraped together all of our resources in order to make it ours.
It was a special ordeal moving across the street in the middle of winter in Wisconsin while Ian was in Iraq on his second deployment. It seemed silly to box things just to transport them merely steps away, so the move took months with a million little trips. Every time I had a spare five minutes I'd grab a few more dishes or a lamp or a clock and carry them across the street. But eventually we made it, and today it's both vaguely comforting and sad to see our old house outside our new windows.
The great irony about the move is that before, in the house with little space, we had many guests. At Christmastime we put up the grandparents and uncles and cousins and the floors were covered with people and blankets. It was exciting and fun but cramped and crazy, and if you needed a moment to yourself it was hard to come by. Due to a variety of factors, once we moved into the new house and finally had space to host people better, the guests became few and far between. My kids have lamented the past couple of years that Christmas doesn't feel like Christmas anymore without all the people. I agree, but it's been kind of out of my hands.
In any case, this past week (also known as the week with no spare moments in which to write a new post) we finally had a houseful of people! My brother, mother, and a friend of theirs all did presentations at a conference here in Milwaukee that seemed to be about the crossroads of science and art. My dad came along, too, and my kids were so happy to have extra people around. They like to turn on the mirror ball in the living room and dance to records, and that's always better with a crowd. (What, you don't have a mirror ball in the living room? And no, that wasn't a typo, we still play records. I'm training my kids to be young geezers.)
I loved having my dad here drawing at the dining room table, available to play cards with me and Quinn in the afternoons. My brother identified any insects we were curious about and took a little time to bounce with the kids on the trampoline. My mom gave us a private run through of her beautiful presentation. It was nice to have the opportunity to make their friend feel welcome in our city and our home, and he was kind enough to tell me my kids were great which is all any mother really wants to hear. (People are so quick to tell you when they think you are parenting badly it's always a welcome relief to have someone say something nice.)
And it was great to finally be able to put people up for several days without it feeling chaotic. Guests had rooms to themselves with the opportunity for some privacy. My parents were a little exposed being in a bed by the backdoor, but they were able to wave to the kids as they passed through on their way to school and that ended up feeling like a bonus rather than a problem. I finally felt like our house was being used in the way it was intended.
Today the last of the houseful of guests departed. And I'm all alone and have a moment to write again. It's nice to have time to reflect, and I enjoy the way the house feels when it's filled with the rhythms of just our little family of five (plus dog), but I miss the company. Maybe this is the beginning of a new era of visits, though. We can hope! (Aden will start the mirror ball....)