Saturday, September 10, 2016

Growing Pains: They're Not Just for Teenagers Anymore

They aren't.  They're for aging grandmothers, too--for ladies who are no longer gaining inches in height, but are beginning to lose them (!!)...while simultaneously gaining a bit of girth around the middle.  Ugh.

A quick aside: it's great to marry a guy who's close to your age and is deteriorating at the same rate you are.  Luckily for us, when my husband and I look at each other, we still see the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 15-year-old kids we were when we started dating in 1973.  Our eyes are aging at the same pace as the rest of us, you see, which I suppose can be considered a plus!

I got a kick out of this snarky Valentine's Day card I found online the other day.

Okay now, "disgusting" might be a bit rough.  But seriously, folks...we still love what we see--warts and wrinkles and whatnot and all--when we look at each other.  We're going through a lot of growing pains, a lot of changes in our life (hello, empty nest!).  But one thing remains a constant, and that is our unbreakable bond, which seems to grow ever stronger, even as the years work to sap us of our youthful vim and vigor.  We make a good team, the best team; and as long as we have each other, I don't believe there's any storm we couldn't weather--with God's help, of  course.
We are not expecting any serious storms, and God willing, there are none looming on our horizon.  But we are about to rock our world a bit: we are planning to sell the house we bought 26 years ago, the house we moved into when our oldest son was in first grade and where we raised him and his 4 younger brothers.  We  are about to begin the process of cleaning out and updating said house--which although we love dearly is a tad on the "dated" side--so that we can move from NH to VA and be closer to 3 of our sons and their families.

It's a hard decision to make, in a multitude of ways: because we've gotten so comfortable here, for one thing; but more importantly, because this house holds nothing but fond memories of many happy years spent watching our five boys grow up to be men.  However, between our frequent travels to visit our kids and our many trips to NY to care for our Oyster Haven VRBO house, the sad truth is that it sits empty a lot.

Here's a line from Kate Morton's The Lake House (a book I told you, in yesterday's blog post, that I wasn't going to read just yet...but it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind, you know).  When I read it, it struck me like a sucker-punch to the gut, because I realized that although the house to which Morton refers in the novel is a decaying mansion that was abandoned by its family 70 years earlier after a terrible tragedy, our home here in NH kind of fits this description as well: "Houses weren't meant to stand empty.  A house without occupants, especially one like this, still filled with a family's possessions, was the saddest, most pointless thing on earth."

So we shall move.  My husband and I love our house, but it's just too big for the two of us, and too far away from our boys for them to get to it very often.

But those possessions!  Can we talk about those possessions?

I went up to the attic yesterday to start the overwhelming process of figuring out what we must keep and what can be tossed or donated.  And here's what greeted me.

And that's just one-half of the attic.  The other side is equally crammed with boxes, bags, and bins.

I ended up getting all caught up in reminiscing, as I looked around and realized that there is so much stuff that belonged to our boys in the attic, you almost wouldn't believe that they don't live here anymore!  (The closets in their bedrooms are still filled with clothes that I can't bear to get rid of yet, either!  They could seriously pack nothing but underwear and socks when they come to visit, because there are pants, shirts, sweatshirts, and jackets aplenty.)

While rummaging through the attic, I found their childhood dinosaurs and Jurassic Park toys.  (They're in the KEEP pile, definitely!)
I found their football and lacrosse equipment, which I should have donated (but didn't) to some local youth programs years ago, when all those helmets, pads, and gloves would have still been up to code.  (This makes no sense, I realize; but for now anyway, this stuff goes in the KEEP pile, too.)
I found old Halloween costumes, like our youngest son's T-Rex outfit (that he wore constantly until it didn't fit him anymore) and his Saint Patrick robe and mitre, which I made for him to wear in the All Saints parade when he was in first grade at Catholic school.  (Are you even wondering whether or not I'll keep these costumes?  If you think I'm ready to give them away, you don't know me very well.)
I found the white linen suit coat that I made for son #4 to wear when he was the ring bearer at his aunt/godmother's wedding.  (Stain notwithstanding, it's a KEEP!)
I found high school football jackets from the different years our boys' football team won state championships, embroidered with their names and numbers. And they were hanging right next to the two "official, authentic" (read: very expensive) Joe Montana and Derek Thomas 49'ers football jerseys that had been cherished Christmas gifts of our two oldest sons in their pre-teen days.


It was not a very fruitful trip to the attic, if the goal was to find a bunch of things to get rid of.  There's just so much of us, and our history as a family, stored up there.  I'll have to go back when I'm feeling a little bit stronger, my friends.

Just so you don't think I'm totally pathetic: I did find two long-unused humidifiers, which made their way into the Goodwill pile; I also found an old ski parka of my husband's that had seen better days and a long-neglected wool tweed overcoat that I'd had since the late 80's (complete with then-popular linebacker-style shoulder pads, a la Linda Evans in the TV show "Dynasty").  So my efforts at beginning the purging process weren't completely unsuccessful.

But even though I haven't worn it in more than a decade, I had a little pang as I dropped that tweed overcoat off at Goodwill.  After all, it had been a gift from my husband; he'd shopped for it himself at TJ Maxx, going on a description I'd given of a coat that I loved and would have bought if we could have afforded it.  This was the Christmas of 1988, which was probably the most difficult year financially of our entire marriage.  It was a year he shouldn't have spent much at all on me, but he knew how dearly I wanted that coat (and after having just moved from FL to IL, he also knew I kind of needed it).  Even though I was no longer wearing it, every time I visited the attic and looked at that coat, I was reminded of how much he loved me.  Even though I hadn't worn it in ages, it was, to me, a symbol of my husband's love.

And our attic is filled with such symbols!

I'm going to stop here, before I regret giving that coat away, and I'm going to chalk up these pitiful pangs of nostalgia to growing pains.  I'm also going to remind myself that sometimes, you have to go through painful experiences to get to something better.  And when I weigh the two options--an often empty house, filled with a family's possessions, or a new house closer to the people I love, filled with more people than things--the answer is an easy one.

We're growing.  It's painful, yes; but it's so beautiful, too.


  1. I LOVE the snarky card and all of the things that made you reminisce! But you can do this.... you are strong.... and you will be so happy in the end!!

    1. I know, it's definitely the right thing to do. It will be hard, but so worth it.

  2. From now on, take pictures of the things you give away. Keep a separate photo album of "getting ready for the move". Take pictures of your walls of photos and momentos. Take a picture of the outside too. You will always have your memories, tbe album will make them a talking point. The album can then have a special place in your new home that you will fill with loved ones making new memories. Still keep some stuff though!

    1. Great ideas, Cathy. I'm also going to take pictures around town--of the church we attend, the boys' grade school and high school, the football fields where they played their Pee Wee games, the beaches and ice cream stands we went to in the summers. That way, years from now, they can look at all those familiar places and hopefully it will bring back fond memories. And they can show their kids what the place where Daddy grew up looked like.

      And don't worry, I will keep some stuff. I'm too much of a nostalgic pack-rat to do otherwise!

  3. Laura
    Big news!! but somehow I suspected you'd come to this point. The future is filled with exciting possibilities. xx

    Ok as for your decluttering and updating house, I have some tips.
    First up updating, a coat of paint is what makes one massive difference today and white or light is in!! All through the house. You're decorating for the masses not yourself, hard to change mindset I know. Ask your dil's advice, check out websites, you'll get the feel.

    ok decluttering, firstly seconding Cathy's advice, take a picture is great. Speaking as a former pack rat who still struggles, read some books, websites that talk about this to get in the right headspace. I personally found Clutter's Last Stand by Don Aslett revolutionary for me, I suspect Marie Kondo will be way to much for you at this stage.
    Now don't start with your attic that is full of memories, you might even be best leaving that till last when you are more in a rhythm. Start with an easy room, one that you can let go of things. Say the bathroom, those packets of shampoo from motel rooms, the broken hair straightener, the 20 year old makeup (cause you rarely use it) etc. Then feeling a huge sense of satisfaction move onto the next room, or maybe even drawer or cupboard that you can make easier decisions about. Leave the harder rooms, cupboards until you've 'built up your muscles'.
    Asking yourself all the time 'is this really important enough to lug across country'? Is it important enough to keep? Does it bring me happiness?
    Cheering you on, eager to hear how you get on

    1. This is all great advice, thank you!

      We definitely want to repaint all the walls. I'm glad to hear that white or light is in, because a lot of our walls are still the antique white I put up over 20 years ago. I'm just going to give every wall a fresh coat.

      And you're right; I probably shouldn't start in the attic--too much nostalgic stuff is up there. I think we're going to give our upstairs bathrooms both a bit of a renovation, so we'll start there. Then I think I'll tackle the bedrooms--fresh paint, new carpet.

      It's overwhelming, but I imagine that when I'm finished, I'll feel better about having lightened our load a bit. I'd hate to hang onto everything and leave it to my kids to go through it after we're gone!

      Thanks for the tips and the support! I'll keep you posted on my progress.

  4. Not sure if this is of help, relevant to your situation but thought I'd share

  5. I know this process is sooooo hard and overwhelming but I, for one, could not be more grateful to know that at the end of this long journey, you will be just minutes away. There is no greater gift. Our kids will never remember a life without having you close. Here for the day to day, in the trenches of life's monotony where most of our days are spent. But soon, it will be so much sweeter with Grammy and Papa to join us. (This is Katie by the way, I'm not sure why it comes up as Mike)

    1. As I started reading this, I thought this must be you and not my boy!

      Thank you so much for your love, and for WANTING us nearby. I know that's not at all the way it is in some families when it comes to in-laws, and Dad and I feel so very blessed that you like having us around.

      Love you! XOXO

  6. I love that you will be so close to so many of your kids/grandkids!

  7. Definitely take pictures of everything. It will make it so much easier to let go. I can't even imagine how hard this must be for you. What a huge blessing it will be to be so close to your grandkids on a daily basis. That goodness is what will carry you through I am sure. I will be praying for you during this time of transition.

    1. Madeline, thank you so much for your kindness and prayers, as always.

      I know that once all is said and done, we will be happy to have made the transition. As someone who resists change, there are going to be hard things about it for me, for sure. But my husband and I are starting to get very excited about this next chapter in our lives.