This weekend has been a whirlwind of emotions. I have felt joyful, sad, overwhelmed, exhausted, and strong all in a few hours. Helping my family move out of a place that we have called home for 11 years was extremely emotional for me. When walking through the house, seeing it empty but filling it with the memories we captured in each room, I knew in my heart how I was going to say goodbye. So, this is my letter to my house. I want to share a peek into the 11 years of life that it carried, the tears it saw, and the love it was filled with.
I let the tears fall because I feel safe with you. You have been a physical place where I felt safe and free to be myself. You were more than just a building; you were a capsule of my childhood, awkward teens, and my coming to adulthood. My biggest, greatest, and hardest life transitions have happened with you.
One of my youngest memories is back from when I was in elementary school. Every birthday my Mom made sure to decorate the kitchen so when we woke up we could walk down the stairs, turn the corner and see the sign saying, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY _____” with the cute balloons and decorations all around it. Most of the time I was half awake and didn’t show my true feelings but I am always excited to have another birthday. So many ice cream cakes, cookie cakes, carrot cakes and pints of ice cream….basically everything but normal cake have been shared among friends and family in that kitchen.
If we fast forward a few years, we come to one of the hardest moments in my life. I remember sitting on the floor in the living room with my Mom when we found out about my Dad. I slept in bed with my Mom that night and we waited to hear more about what was going on. For weeks after that, I hung onto the hope of normalcy returning to you. Our house was not the same without my Dad around. My Mom was pregnant and running back and forth between where my Dad was and us kids at home. Soon life returned back to a new normal but we were forever changed as a family.
Soon after that, our house changed. Kids moved from one room to another because we were welcoming another Johnson kid to the world. Though I do not remember the moment my parents left for the Hospital, I know that you do. I wish the walls could tell me the details of their conversation and their expressions. You watched us fall in love with this new little baby and see that our lives would never be the same. His first steps, words, and songs were within your walls.
My first heartbreak, and second, and third brought many tears and heart-to-heart conversations with Mom and Dad. Though I had to heal my heart and wounds a few times, I grew through those situations into a bolder, more confident women. Thank you for housing my tears and hearing the words that I spoke into the nothingness. Some of my greatest revelations have come through the silence.
Jump ahead to when I graduated High School and I was so excited to be done but you saw what was really happening. You saw the heartache of knowing that I was leaving my family behind and that there was a possibility of me meeting someone at school and never coming home to you again. Seeing the raw moments where I questioned if I was strong enough to jump…and remembering that I had to jump to fly.
Coming home a few weeks later after visiting a friend, I was sitting in the kitchen telling my Mom about this boy I met. She had never seen me smile like that before. It made her nervous but I think it also made her excited. I’m sure you heard her conversations with my Dad, late at night, talking about their thoughts and praying that this boy didn’t hurt their daughter. I opened your front door to let this boy inside our home and inside our hearts.
Preparing to leave for school was emotionally draining but that boy decided to come around to see me off. The night before, when no one else was around you heard him tell me that him loved me for the very first time.
I’m sure you took part in planning the surprise proposal too. I woke up that morning, borrowed a dress from my Sister and walked out the front door, not knowing that my life was going to change. The next morning, sitting on the couch next to my fiancé it hit me–I was getting married to the man you had heard me pray for for years and years. The tears flowed of course and everyone laughed. We soon got dressed and took our proposal announcement in the backyard.
Holding the last box in my hand, I am standing in the foyer try to catch my breath because I was doing my best not to be emotional but by now you know that I am terrible at that, I turn around to see my Mom and Dad ready to send their first baby out of the nest to create her own nest. It was such a bittersweet moment and I will never forget the feeling of those hugs, and tearfully leaving. I knew that you weren’t going to be my home at that point. I was not going to sleep in my basement room again or take a shower in my parent’s bathroom (because that is what all the kids did even though we had a guest bath). I was taking my first adult steps and creating a life of my own. Ironically, my now home is modeled after you in a way. It is beautifully chaotic but created to feel welcoming to those that walk through the door. You always had a way of making others feel like home even when it wasn’t their home.
While I focused heavily on sadder memories, we have shared many more joy-filled memories.
I love every Christmas Eve when we would all get dressed up for Christmas Eve Service and try to take a family photo using the self-timer and whatever we could find to hold it up. Once we came home, we would open one present. As you know because you watched Mom wrap it and because it is the same every year, it was pajamas. I would then stay up all night making cookies and pigs-in-a-blanket for the next morning because I can never sleep on Christmas Eve! We (more so I) would wake up the kids and get Christmas rolling once I knew Mom and Dad wouldn’t be too upset. I’m sure you heard all of the moans and groans about us being up too early. You also heard Dad read the Christmas Story from the Bible every year too. It is one of my most cherished memories with you. As you know from the bags hidden inside Mom’s closet and the feet running all around on your floors and stairs, it is a busy season. But just for a moment, everything stopped. We refocused our hearts and remembered what this was all about. We each went around and talked about our favorite part of this year, and felt the love between us all grow a little bit stronger.
You have also seen my personal relationships with my family grow a lot over 11 years. For awhile it must have seemed that I really, really disliked Siera but as we got older, decided that we could have wrestling matches in the living room and have sleepovers in each other’s rooms, we became best friends. Chase, though he is the quieter Johnson kid, has found an older sister that cares about his technology and tried to understand it to the best of her ability. You have watched us become closer and closer as the years have gone by. Ashton and I were close from the start, but you knew that due to the amount of time I walked around the house holding him and playing with him. But as he has gotten older, we have walked in and out of the door to many adventures, creating new memories for us to cherish. Mom worked so hard for me and over the 11 years, you have slowly watched my eyes open and become so grateful for her in my life. She is beautiful and one of the strongest people I have ever met—a true role model for me. Dad somehow watched his daughter grow up and fall in love with a boy and leave the next and not fall apart during it but I am sure you saw the flip-side of things; the tears and the processing of it all. He has and will always be “Daddy” but as I get older, I see what a man of honor he is. I pray that I can live a life a honor like he does. I love everyone in my family but of course you know that, you were filled with our love all this time.
My last memory with you was moving day. The moment I walked in your front door, I saw you bare and you felt lonely. I took a moment and felt the emotion but tried to pull myself together to make sure that Mom’s potted plants and vacuum made it into this truckload but you knew I wasn’t done. I walked down the hallway, into the kitchen and out the sliding back doors to talk to some of the guys and see if I was strong enough to carry any of the plants. I wasn’t because those suckers are heavy. I walked into the basement door and tried to help carry some other items to the truck. As I came up the stairs to the main level I thought, “Hmm, I’ll set this down on the bench” but when I rounded the corner, the bench was no more. The thought I made out of 11 years of habit pushed me past the breaking point. I found myself in the corner of the living room no one ever used unless it was Christmas (except Chase) and grieved you. The home where I changed, forever. I felt overwhelmed and like my head was spinning but once I caught my breath, I knew that this was how I was going to say goodbye. To verbally walk down memory lane with you since you are a house and can’t move, to give my thanks, shed my tears, and move on to create memories in the new house.
So, thank you. You were everything you needed to be and more. The seasons of life that we lived through will never be without remembering you as well; the kitchen, the living room, our bedrooms. I might drive by a few times to see if someone has bought you yet but I think that family Dad was talking to on Sunday was really interested in you. You cutie of a house 😉
I will miss you as a structure but I am lucky that “home” is moving with us. Family has never been something that we leave behind and we are surely not leaving it in this house. So, here is to new beginnings and new seasons. I feel like that is what my family needed. 2016 has not been so nice to us so we are walking into this new season with hope that it will only get better from here. If you have any advice for the new house, I can shoot you the address. She will probably need it!
I love you and I will miss you. Thank you being my home.
The girl who cried a lot and had that really obnoxious belly laugh