This house is sold.
Through this front door, a mom carried her first baby home from the hospital. In this living room, the baby bawled all day as his mom paced back and forth, cradling him like a football to ease his colic. Then one wondrous day, the colic ceased all at once. Here, the little baby suddenly started smiling and laughing.
Through this front door, 17 months later, the mom carried her second baby home from the hospital. On this sofa, the new baby slept in her mom’s arms for hours and hours during quiet afternoons when time stood still and nothing mattered more than a mommy-daughter nap.
Down these narrow stairs, two babies learned how to crawl backwards, diapered bottoms first. Two babies ate cheerios for the first time here in this dining room, in big old-fashioned high chairs. Here in this room a little boy ate so many pureed carrots and sweet potatoes that his nose turned orange. Here in this room a baby girl slipped out of her high chair one night. Here her mother heard the smack of bone on the cold, wood floor. Here her mom felt certain her baby would die, so she clutched the infant to her chest and ran and ran and pounded on the front door of her pediatrician friend.
Here is where a cheer little boy crawled in circles and circles and circles around the house, pushing a toy truck along the wood floors. “Digger,” he shouted. “Weeeeehooooo, fire fire!” And around and around again.
Here is a front window out to the street, where a little boy stood on a chair to watch the garbagemen empty the bins and wave at him. Here is a little city courtyard in front of this house where this little boy grew obsessed with the garden hose, spraying it at his sister, and his mom, and himself. This is where his little sister wore the tiniest rose-covered flouncy bathing suit over pink chubby folds of skin, jumping through the water, euphoric. This is where her big brother showed up one day, naked, to run under the hose until he was scooped up by his mom in front of laughing tourists walking down the little city street.
This is the bedroom that two little people have always shared. Along this wall a little boy played in his toddler bed every morning before 6 a.m., calling gently across the room to wake his baby sister. Against this wall sat his sister’s crib, where she lay on her back, head swiveled and eyes wide, watching every move her big brother made. Here, as soon as she could stand, her brother taught her how to climb out of the crib and play legos with him until the sun began to rise.
This is the bathtub where two little toddlers, less than 18 months apart, took bright-colored baths together. This is the tub in which a mom mixed Crayola Bath color together for every bath for several years, asking, “How about we mix a red and a blue one tonight?” And this is where two little children screamed, “Yes, yes, make it purple, our favorite!” as the water turned violet. This is the tub where a mermaid lived and a dolphin skimmed across the water’s surface. This is the tub where a little boy wore scuba goggles, and a little girl splashed until the floor was covered in purple water.
This is the basement where memories were made. This was the home of Lego, and Playmobil, and wooden blocks, and Thomas the Train. This was playdate heaven where barefoot toddlers with popsicle-stained fingers popped bubbles and toppled over trampolines and hid in the closet when it was time to go home. This is where little boys shouted, “Yes We Can,” and little girls magically transformed into Disney princesses.
This was the library where two little people learned how to read and how to make sense of the world, sitting on their mother’s lap in a mini stuffed chair. This is the place where two children felt secure, and unconditionally loved, and filled with joy. The world was a good place, and they knew this.
This is the place where two little people first learned how to say, “I wuv you.” It was a place of sticky kisses and bear hugs, a place where a mom was perfect in the eyes of two little people.
And this is the place where their father betrayed their mom, and them. This is the place where voices were raised, making two little people question their security in the world.
This is the place where a father cracked up and then a family broke up.
Here in this place, if the walls could talk, they would spill secrets about a great decline and mental illness and alcohol abuse and lies and cruel gaslighting. This is a place where a mom lost her faith in herself for a while because she was told she was crazy for thinking the obvious. This is a place where a mom learned that she needed to be perfect because she couldn’t control anything else.
Here in the place, the family became smaller, and people were hurt. And here in this place, a sweet little boy hit his mom and told her the divorce was all her fault.
But then, finally, here in this place the healing started. Upstairs in this place, a bunk bed was shared, and books were chosen for bedside reading out loud. Here is this room, the fictional character Mama Pajama was born, and two children made up stories about how she can fight misfortune wherever she goes.
Here at this table, family dinners started again, along with family thanks, and family prayers, and family meetings.
Here in this place, Barbies lie scattered everywhere, and artwork once again features smiling people with big, bright suns shining down on them. Here in this place, the lego has come and gone, but the baseballs and soccer balls and lacrosse helmets and scooters and mitts and footballs and ballet leotards remain. Here in this place, life goes on.
Here is where two little people are still safe and warm and loved. Here in this place, friends gather, and the truth is told. Here in this place lives a new family.
But now it is time to leave this place. A mom turns around one last time. The furniture is gone; there is nothing left here. She shuts the front door one final time and rubs the curved brass knob that feels just right in her hand.
For a moment, the mom wonders what life would have been – if things had been just a little, tiny bit different. But then she remembers that holding on is never strength. She lets go and walks away.