Closure. Finally. Maybe. November 26, 2022
It was five months ago, to this date, I said my final goodbye to the house at 345 WFH.
It was my move out date, anyway. The date I left the keys hidden for the realtor to retrieve in the place we had agreed I would, and pulled the door closed behind me for the last time of it being "mine.”
A house to which I held the keys for 17 of the past 25 years, moved into and out of three times, if you count the time when my mother lived there. “The Mimi House” as the landlord told me many years ago her family came to call it, maybe because of how they saw me love it, and nest it.
The first move in was in 1997, when I relocated from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Cape Cod with my daughter, then eight years old, two cats, a jar of fish, and everything I owned. We lived there for three and a half years, until we moved out into a much larger house with a man who would later become my fiancée. It was difficult to leave, but it was my choice to do so. I think choice is a huge factor.
Several years later, my mother moved to the Cape from Florida, into 345 WFH, The Mimi House. She had already begun what I refer to as her dementia slide, so I did most of her unpacking for her. And organizing. And occasionally cleaning, and dragging the garbage can to the curb on Friday morning. Those things a daughter does for an aging mother. It was a challenge for me emotionally, as I recall, because even though she was the one living there and paying the rent, it still felt like my house. I would get angry when I walked into the breezeway and it smelled horribly of trash, because apparently she didn’t have the strength or focus to put it elsewhere. I suppose I could have, should have, had more compassion at the time. I did my best, at the time.
She ended up moving from the house into a nursing home. We continued to pay rent for a year, while I tried to get her papers and other accumulations of things organized, sorted, and downsized, until it became apparent she wouldn’t be coming back home to this place. I think perhaps, no, I know I took a bit longer than I might have, because even while I was living in the big house up the road with my fiancée, I loved having this house back in my life as my own little place to go to be alone. In May of 2006 I turned the keys back to the landlord, a second time. The next day I experienced a full blown migraine. Only time ever. I think it was some sort of pressure release.
Fast forward to February, 2010, to when my fiancée and I agreed to go our separate ways. I called the landlord. “Hey, when 345 becomes available, might you let me know, please?” In the meantime, I made a makeshift apartment in the back of the gallery space I rented downtime. I called it my bohemian year. I knew it was transitional. I took only what I needed, and put the rest in storage, in a combination of a friend’s basement, the fiancée’s house, and a rented storage space in one of those big climate controlled places where people put all the stuff they don’t know what else to do with. One year later, February 2011, I moved back in to The Mimi House. And it was home for another 11 years, until this spring, when the landlord told me I had the requisite 30 days to move. Ok, it was actually 56 days, but it was still relatively short notice after so many years there. I used to think it might be my forever home, maybe somehow I would eventually buy it for my own. Apparently I was wrong.
I’ve missed The Mimi House more than I care to admit. Cried about it. Yelled (politely) at God about it. “I want to go home” came out of my mouth with nobody else in the room a couple weeks ago. Though the place I’ve moved to is significantly larger, with a fancier kitchen, and no yard work requirement, and an amazing financial arrangement, my heart still wanted to go back. My things don’t look right, here. They belong somewhere else. There.
Even after I turned in the keys five months ago, I continued to occasionally visit the back yard (shhhh… don’t tell the realtor.) A couple of early mornings, when I knew nobody would be there. And a few evenings at dusk, or just after, to view the stars in the sky over the backyard just one more time. So many nights out there at 3 a.m. with Rosie, my beautiful, wise Airedale Terrier dog, during her last year of life. Outside in the middle of the night with the moon and stars and the quiet. I needed to savor it one more time.
There’s a lot more to share, but let’s fast forward to today, because honestly I’m tired and I want to read and go to sleep. It was a long day.
One day last week I taped a note to what used to be my gallery door, welcoming the new owner, introducing myself, and offering to be of help if they would like to meet so I might educate them to some of the house's individual quirks - which wall switches belong to which plugs, where perennial garden plantings exist not clearly evident in November, and the secret combination of settings necessary to get the old riding mower started - those sorts of things. My personal agenda was to learn of their plans for the house. Would it be a tear down and rebuild as happens to so many older houses on Cape? Or a renovation to become their personal home? Or, hope beyond hope (or so I thought) maybe they would want a year round tenant? Fourth times the charm, right?
This morning, at 10 a.m, I received a text, thanking me for the note, and inviting me to stop by if I’d like to today. I think I was there within about fifteen minutes of receiving the text. Prayed in the car on the way over, asking if I was doing the right thing, because I acted so hastily without remembering to pray first. “Yes, go.” I heard in response. Whew. “Thank you,” I prayed back.
The new owner. She is kind. And inquisitive. And already has visions for improvements she will make. And yes, she did seem genuinely interested in hearing what I had to say, except perhaps for several times when I rambled on more than I should have because quite frankly I needed to share some of the house stories out loud. It was healing for me to do so. A passing of the baton, or some other metaphor.
Remember what I said about choice? This move out was not one of my own choosing. I was given notice, and had to leave, or I would still be living there. I’ve wrestled for the past five months with more demons around this move than I can get into at this moment. Though I do think in the midst of the wrestling I’ve realized several important things about why it was so hard to let go.
Beyond the obvious, the long term nature of my time there, the reason beneath the obvious is, quite simply, memories. It’s not about the house itself, or at least not entirely. It’s more about what happened in and around the house.
So many memories of my life created within those walls. My daughter was 8 when we first moved there. She is now 33. I was 37, now 62. Those are significant chunks of lifetimes. The two cats who moved there with us initially are now gone, and there were also two dogs, and then a third, my dear Rosie, this last stint there. She was my Covid quarantine companion. Oh yeah, Covid happened there, too. Odd times.
And then there were the significant relationships. First, the man who would become my fiancée for whom I left it the first time, in 2001. He is the one who installed the motion sensor floodlights in the backyard, the ones that continued to light my way 20 years later when Rosie and I went out for our late night outings. Then the man I was dating when I moved back in in 2011, with whom I parted amicably and for all the right reasons, but his fingerprints are still on the place. And then there was the entirety of the relationship, start to finish, with the last one, the one that lasted the least amount of time but broke my heart still and kept circling back around (talk about having a hard time letting go) and led me to grow to know Jesus in a way I never did before. And I suppose if we are counting significant relationships with men within those walls, I should most certainly count that one, too. The one with a capital H when referring to Him. It was in the front bedroom I surrendered my life to Christ one Sunday after a long nap, yet another story for another time. So many significant life transitions. In this house, during these past 11 years, I quit drinking, by choice, changed my dating habits, and worked numerous part time jobs in addition to continuing to paint. Had my first little art gallery in the breezeway back in 1998 for a couple years. Then a more significant one from 2018 to 2022, in the same place.
Whew, that’s a LOT of living.
So why do I think I have closure, now, finally, maybe, after this morning?
Meeting Paula today, and hearing of her plans to love the house in a whole new way, helped. It isn’t “my” house anymore. It’s hers. And she’s excited, and has dreams of her own for it. She tells me she plans to offer it as a summer rental, so others may also enjoy it. This brings me smiles, to consider the joy it will bring to many other than me.
And another funny little fact from this morning, perhaps contributing to my sense of closure. I got my shower curtain back, and some cans of paint, and curtains and curtain rods, all the things I left behind so the house might look prettier when they showed it, things I didn’t really need to leave, but I did, because, well, I wanted her (the house) to look good. And now tonight the shower curtain is in my bathroom, here, with me.
Pretty silly, I know. Though as I’ve come to learn all too well, it isn’t about the things, it’s the memories they evoke. The shower curtain - the one Rosie would shake her fur onto after I bathed her in the shower. And now a tear forms in my eye.
Thank you, dear God, for the precious times and memories. I’m ready to let go now, I think. I hope.
As I flicked the light switch on and off for the lamppost, on the surface to show her “here, this is the switch for the outside light,” I knew in my heart it was my own little goodbye, to a series of memories. Turning it off, one more time, one last time, the light switch I would leave on in hopes of him coming over in the evening after his work shift ended, and would more nights than not turn it off sadly as I headed to bed, after he failed to materialize. I realized in one simple gesture how much I am finally now ready to move on. How much I not only need to, but want to move on.