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.
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!)
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.