Earlier this year we learned unexpectedly we needed to move. Yes, saying good bye to our home of 33 years. It was sudden and at the time we didn’t know where we were going. This is a special house, a home where all 5 of our children grew up. An old brick colonial with ivy creeping up the front and a messy yard- still revealing broken sand buckets, and hiding lost treasures.
When our kids heard the news that we’d have to move they decided to surprise us with a great gift-a trip home to say goodbye to the house! All of our kids are in their 30’s, live in 4 different states, and amongst them have 21 children so it was no easy task to do this! (A huge thank you to their spouses who stayed home to take care of their kids!).
Oh what a wonderful weekend it was. We did everything we used to do in the old days. The kids slept in their old rooms, we got take-out from our favorite restaurant, “The Lost Dog.” Some of them went for a run early in the am while others slept in! Five siblings shared the same bathroom again although our son John said it was a bit unusual to find a breast pump in the middle of the bathroom floor!
We took time to go into each room and recount memories of that particular room. Chris and John remembered the old couch they got off the street and hauled up to their already crowded 9 by 10’ room to join a tacky Farah Faucett bean bag chair and the time they ate way too many breath mints and got horrible stomach aches which left the room dubbed “a gas tank” by their sisters. Allison (our eldest and the only one with her own room) remembers various siblings getting in bed with her in the middle of the night and then wetting her bed! And she remembers snuggling with Dad to read, Tales of Narnia.
I recalled the intense sibling rivalry and fights between Allison and John and then the time in High School when I walked past her room and discovered them curled up together planning their double date to Homecoming. I marveled at God’s goodness. Susy and Libby’s (our twins) room brought back memories for each of us. Allison remembers sitting outside their baby gate doing her homework on the hall floor while the twins, having climbed out of their cribs stood inside the gate screaming until they fell asleep in a pile on the floor. (We didn’t have sleep training books in those days!) The twins remember re-arranging their rooms, florescent stars on the ceiling, and much later a boyfriend serenading outside the window!
The twins room held a poignant moment for me as I remembered having my “Empty Nest melt-down” sitting on the floor in their newly emptied room as Susy and her husband pulled out of the driveway with all their belongings after Libby’s wedding (our last). I burst into tears as I looked at that empty room with dirty marks where pictures once hung. I noticed a discarded old prom dress all alone on the closet floor, deserted, no longer needed and at that moment I felt like that dress… no longer needed. My babies had left. All were now married. Memories… Oh the joy and especially the gratitude each of us experienced as we remembered.
I gave the kids each of their baby books. No they weren’t neat. Papers spilled out, and not one was completed. Each one shared something they found in their book- a valentine poem from a sibling, a silver dollar from a granddad, a hilarious photo or news clipping. We laughed together reminiscing.
Allison and John cooked a fabulous dinner. They did not want my chicken divan again. But we did have a Carvel’s ice cream cake, just like the old days.
Together we celebrated the past and prayed about the unknown future.
Celebrating the past is a precious gift and taking time to recount memories brings a joyful closure to a season in life. We were reminded again and again of the gift of family and of the truth God’s faithfulness.
It was a perfect weekend.
“Good bye house”
In the great old house five kids were raised
Two boys wrestled and 3 girls played dolls
Four golden retrievers -one jumped out a window
And landed two stories below
Two exhausted parents tried to say “hush”
And yes the kids ate lots of grits or mush
You’ve been a great shelter for us. ..
oh, and good bye mouse.
Do you have a favorite memory of your childhood home?
Wow! I didn’t realize how many kids or grandkids you have!! I have three girls, 9, 5 and 2. I don’t know how you do it!
I love reading your blogs! You have such a good looking family too! It was nice to read about some of your adventures in your house you are saying goodbye to. It gives me something to look forward to – all the memories!
Best wishes in your new house wherever it may be!
I love your idea about looking forward to memories ! A great positive attitude:)
Thanks for writing!
Susan – Such a beautiful post. It is especially meaningful to me, as I too am nearly done raising 5. Youngest is nearly 17, two are off in college and the two oldest have “Launched” from the nest and are off flying on their own now. I so remember reading your early books, “And then I had kids” when we just had a few, little ones so close together and I thought…”finally, I really am not alone, others have gone before me and I will survive. That was approx. 20 years ago – and yes, one does survive and makes so many, many memories and is so blessed along the way.
The other reason your post touched me was I have followed the situation with you and your husband and your church and the circumstances regarding your “saying good bye to your house.” Your life of faithfulness to God and trust in Him in the midst of hard things continues to spur me on and encourage me to stay faithful….May God bless you and your husband with great joy and grace as you walk forward, trusting Him each step of the way. Thank you dear “mentor from afar, through the printed page.”
Thank you sweet Ann for taking the time to write! You have encouraged me today and I pray that God will use someone like you to encourage YOU in some special way today as well!
What memories! So glad you could all be together once more. My husband and I moved into the house where I grew up. We had 5 kids and homeschooled there until the baby was 5 yrs. old. A lot of things happened, some not so good, but still a lot of great times. Some of the best were bringing home each newborn from the hospital and settling them in. Seemed almost magical. Our oldest is now 21 and the baby almost 10! Where does the time go???
How amazing that you lived in the house in which you grew up! Wow, your memories must at some times be confused:) May God keep refreshing you with the good memories and let the not so good ones fade away!
thanks for writing!
What a precious gift to do this as a family. We are missionaries, and have moved many times. The one thing that is hard is not having a “home” to say goodbye to as a family. And as a missionary “kid” myself, I also am without that place. But we still can share the memories, like we did one month ago before our oldest daughter’s wedding.
“And then I had kids” was a life saver to me 20 some years ago. The opening description of the phone call interview and the twins had me in stitches. And then I had twins… life has never been more challenging. But that’s another story.
Thank you for sharing your life with us in various media over the years.
I cried and cried as cried when I read this – we have just sold our 1st ever home where our 3 children all spent the early years of their lives and for some silly reason I was looking for ways to say goodbye to a house full of memories when I came across this, thank you x
Oh, how I can relate! A little over five years ago, following God’s call on our lives, we left the wonderful home we built (with God) after 16 years, six children, many memories, dear friends and a church after almost 28 years. Leaving five children behind has been increasingly hard, as they have married, had babies, and our youngest is about ready to launch. I read your “Empty Next” book a few months ago and need to read it again. It’s hard to make new friends at this stage but we know we are where God wants us for now. I so appreciate your encouragement and will be looking for more of your posts on being a distant mom and mother-in-love. Thank you and God bless you!