Tuesday, March 7, 2017

That Was Us; This Is Us

With our closing fast approaching, I have been walking up and down the stairs at our house almost non-stop for the past couple of weeks, going through all the closets and storage areas--of which there are many, let me tell you.  Lots of nooks, lots of crannies.  I never could have complained that this house didn't have enough storage space!!  In fact, it might have been better if there had been less, because then we might not have accumulated so much stuff!  I mean, we've had 26-plus years to amass all of it...but really, there is SO. MUCH. STUFF!!  I cannot stress this enough.  And I know I could just let the movers box it all up and deal with it when we get to our new place, but I feel strongly that it will be less stressful for me in the long run if we get rid of what we don't want or need on this end.

So life has been very busy indeed.  Every morning I wake up and it's the same thing: I go from basement to first floor to second floor to attic, then back down again, only to repeat the process about a hundred times during the course of the day.  These treks up and down the stairs are broken up by quick trips to the recycling center and Goodwill.  Fun times!

I must say, it has been interesting looking into boxes and bins that have languished, all but forgotten, for ten or even twenty years--and sometimes longer.  And it has also been exhausting, both emotionally and physically.

A little while ago, I met up with my husband in the family room on the first floor.  While I've been relentlessly culling through the flotsam and jetsam of a long life well-lived, he has been busy working on all kinds of projects that we promised to complete before closing, such as the renovation of the master bathroom.

But I caught him as he was sitting on the couch.  Not resting, mind you; he was making one of the countless phone calls one needs to make in order for a move to happen smoothly.  I dragged myself over to my overstuffed chair and plopped down, and when he got off the phone I channeled my inner Jack Pearson and complained (somewhat pathetically), "This house is breaking me.  I'm broken."  (Please tell me that you watch "This Is Us," and that you remember the scene where Jack tells the OB/GYN who delivered their triplets that the babies have broken his wife Rebecca.  If you aren't a fan of this show, I'm not sure that we can be friends...)
As I go about the business of separating the wheat from the chaff, of trying to decide what to keep and what needs the old heave-ho, in an effort to be as ready as possible to pack up and leave this home where we raised our five sons, these words keep popping into my head: "This was us."  So many of the things I find are reminders of who we were in the past, when it was just seven of us (just my husband and me and the big five--another "This Is Us" reference, sorry about that), living together under this roof.

Things like this backpack that belonged to our oldest son, for instance, which I found yesterday in the attic.  In one of the small zippered compartments, there were a bunch of empty fun-size candy bar wrappers.
Along with the evidence of his trip snacks, there was also still an airline bag-check tag attached, showing that when he last used this backpack he'd been flying to Chicago in January of 2002.
That was him, back then: he was a seemingly incurable chocoholic who was flying back to the Midwest to start the second semester of his freshman year at Notre Dame, after coming home for Christmas break; but it's not him anymore.  Today, he's a super-healthy, organic-eating adult, married and the father of four young daughters.

In the attic I also found our old baby bathtub (bought when we had our first son, in 1983, and used for all five of our boys), a baby carrier/seat, and a walker, each coated with dust after spending more than two decades stored in the rafters.  These items (which are going to be heading to the dumpster once it gets delivered to our driveway tomorrow) reminded me that when we moved into this house, we were the parents of young children who hoped to have more babies--and we did have one, three years later. We were fresh-faced babies ourselves, just 32 years old (which is younger than our firstborn son is now!).  That was us.
But that's not us anymore.  These days we're the much-older parents of four married sons and an officer stationed overseas, and we're "Papa and Grammy" to seven grandchildren and counting.

But to look around our attic, you'd think we had a houseful of little fellas living here still.  I found the metal tray we used to serve our boys breakfast in bed on their birthdays.
Pac-Man?  Really?  Does that date us, or what?

I also found plastic bins of legos, complete with the step-by-step building instructions.
Judging by this plywood sign, you'd think we still had kids at the local Catholic grade school, wouldn't you?
But no, that's just something that I painted a couple of decades ago for the annual carnival fundraiser at their Catholic school and never got around to throwing out.  They loved that carnival, which was held on the tarmac recess field right next to the brick school building.

Perhaps you'd think we had a passel of teenaged lacrosse players living in this house as well, judging by the bins of old equipment still carefully stowed away in the basement.  (Those are old heads ready to be re-strung, lying on top of some stringing materials.  I guess the boys never got around to fixing them up.)
Lacrosse was a huge part of our lives.  That was us, for so many wonderful years.

We used to ski a lot back in the day, too.  When our four oldest sons were young, we would take a yearly ski vacation over their winter break with some of their Pearl cousins; and during the five years that we homeschooled our youngest son, he participated in a ten-week program where he skied in NH every Monday with a group of homeschooled friends.  That was us, and we still have ski equipment in the attic to prove it.
Aside from all the sports gear, we sure had a lot of old-school gadgets and technology. (In fact, my husband just took a collection of floppy discs over to Best Buy the other day for recycling!)  That was so us; we were a land-line, flip-phone, and desktop computer family, before the days of smart phones and iPads.
The times, they have been a-changin'.  Because all of this stuff--all these reminders of the activities we shared and the good times we had together--isn't really who we are anymore.  That was us then.

This is us now.  The big five has multiplied, and we wouldn't want it any other way.  It's like we're "new and improved."
It really has been hard weeding through and tossing out so much of what feels like our history, the story of us. But the whole point of this move is to live closer to our boys and their families.  Because staying in this house surrounded by memories cannot possibly make us anywhere near as happy as being able to spend more time with the people we love.

Okay now, before I sign off: it's Tuesday, and you know what that means, right?  "This Is Us" is on.  (NBC, 9:00.)  I'm going to just ignore the bare walls, the empty shelf, and the boxes of files on the family room floor and enjoy it.  Join me, won't you?


  1. Oops, January of 2002 would make my oldest son a senior in high school, not a freshman in college; so the bag was probably brought along on a college visit trip he took with my husband that year. When I saw the tag on the backpack I tried to figure out when he used it last, but I've never been so good at math...

    But the rest of the story (chocoholic, student at Notre Dame, now a healthy eater)--all true!

  2. Oh wow, your decluttering sounds sooo overwhelming and you must just feel you are drowning in 'stuff'! Though I really want to know did you keep the Lego?
    I agree 100% smart to cull now, sides why would you want to pay freight on moving belongings that are going to have to be binned/given away at some stage anyway. Chances are when you arrive at your new place you may well cull even more.
    Cheering you on, this is lots of fun watching your new life take shape xx

  3. Oh, that Pac Man tray!!! That must bring smiles to all of you when you see it. Breakfasts in bed... what truly special memories for your sons.

    And I love your "This is Us" tie-ins. I haven't watched a regular major-network tv series in many years, but thankfully someone recommended this one. So yes, we can be friends :).

  4. It is so much better that you're doing all the culling now. You will be relieved and have a lot less stress when you set up your new house. You'll have a lot more important things to do! I know you've posted it before but I just love that picture of everyone wearing the numbered shirts! :)

  5. This was great! Loved everything about it - thx for sharing!!

  6. So glad you decided to clean out in New Hampshire. As hard as it seems it has been, reading about the memories (remember, you will always have the memories) is wonderful. Now you can take your memories with you to Virginia and make new ones, in a new home.