Eight years ago we moved into the perfect house. It was 100 years old, with all the tall ceilings and crown mouldings and creaky floors and unique peccadilloes that come with an aged house. It lived in a neighborhood with brick streets and enormous trees and broken sidewalks that carried me and my babies and my husband over and over and over again on long meandering walks.
It was perfect.
One day on the phone my dad wondered if we’d ever want to sell the house to him to use as a rental. “But Dad, we’re never leaving this house.”
He was surprised. “You don’t think you’ll grow out of it?”
Two of my three babies were toddlers at that time; the third baby wasn’t even on her way. We had lots of room. And I had plans to expand when the kids were teenagers: finishing off the attic, adding a second full bath to the second story, strengthening the stairs to the basement for the kids to use as a hangout space.
“No, Dad, I really don’t think so.”
But then my kids grew and what I didn’t anticipate was how much space their limbs alone would take up. With longer limbs we could no longer sit together on the couch to watch a movie; in came a sectional and out went the ease of movement. With longer limbs and bigger feet the floor space in the kitchen became tighter. With longer limbs came stronger limbs, prompting Shannon’s frustration, “I can’t even throw a ball in the yard with my kids.” Where we’d once had plenty of space for the kids to run had become cramped as they grew taller.
I read a lot of blogs, a lot of Apartment Therapy, am in love with Tiny and Tiny House Hunters, Shannon and I have had a loose plan for years to sell our house and live in an RV once our kids are out of the house so that we can travel to see them all the time. If toddlers in New York City can happily have their bedrooms in closets [edited to add: a closery], our house was a mansion. Yet as the walls of our house continually grew tighter around us I battled with my greed. How much space does one family need?
This is my theory that I’m not going to take the time to research but I am positive I’m right: houses started getting larger when parents became too scared to let their kids play outside all day every day. The threat of predators and kidnappings took away the safety of the outdoors so parents pulled their kids inside, and as kids were inside they needed room to play, which necessitated larger houses.
A good number of the people on Tiny House Hunters are placing their properties on large swaths of land. The houses are merely a place to rest before heading back outside. My sister-in-law grew up in a family of 11 in an 1100 square foot house on gobs of acres; she and her siblings were outside all the time. That is just not an option for our family. My town kids cannot spend all day outside unattended.
And so we started looking for a new house. One with a big backyard, a basement for the kids, a separate bathroom for me and Shannon. Each house we went through we came back to our perfect old house and thought, “Nah, I like this one better.”
When we finally decided to stop looking a great house came on the market: established neighborhood but not 100-years established; enormous backyard; lots of bedrooms and bathrooms; a finished basement. And so I’d drive by that house and when it went off the market I was curious about the family that got to live there. Would they appreciate it as much as I would have?
Last spring it was Shannon’s parents who approached us and asked to buy our house to use as a rental. And then the great house came back on the market. Nobody had moved into it a few months prior. It had been waiting for us.
So we moved.
God worked out the timing. The previous owners fixed up the house a bit more, a sweet family from our church who loves old houses as much as we do is renting our 100-year-old house.
The first night we were here in our new house we took a walk by the lake that is almost outside our back door and there was an enormous, brilliant sunset. And I thanked God for His housewarming present.
It’s taking time for this house to feel like ours, to not feel like we’re living in someone else’s space. But it’s getting there. Slowly I move things around, take time to hang things on walls in just the right spot, paint rooms, shuffle things around again. The kids have a yard, a basement where they can yell in goofiness, Shannon and I have a bathroom that we don’t have to share with our babies, we still take family walks, only now instead of down tree-lined streets it is around the lake. It is good.
Moving takes a lot of energy, and a lot of mental energy for me. But I’m so glad we did it. And pretty soon the walls of this house will envelope us and it will be our home.