Emptying the House

Stuff. Stuff everywhere. Stuff near stairs, near doors. Mountains of stuff, everywhere one turns. Boxes of my things, taped and labeled, fill the lower level of my house, the closets, the porch. I have too much stuff and am ready, willing even, to jettison almost all of it.  A purger by nature, I feel no tie to most of these things. They do not comfort me when I’m sad. They do not highlight moments I must remember. Like other, less tangible things, worry, guilt, anger, I am ready to leave these objects behind. To move out. To move on.

It is the house itself that is harder to leave. It’s true the house is too large. It’s true that I am uncomfortable in big homes, that I do not yearn for the empty rooms of my youth, that no part of me feels bad that I will never be able to afford a home as large as the one I grew up in. It’s true that when I bought this house I suspected I would someday come to loathe all the stairs I must climb, all the barely used spaces. But I had always wanted to a window seat, and so was led astray by the porch. I had always wanted to feed others, and so was seduced by the kitchen’s expanse of countertops. But whether the sustenance I wanted to provide was for stomachs or for minds was something I could never decide, and so I wrote more poems in the porch than I entertained guests in the kitchen.

Here too I is the house I stayed in when my newborn son and I left the hospital, those first few nights where I barely slept, terrified that I would wake to find him not breathing, scared to love him too much in case he’d leave like the first, miscarried fetus, or like my brother whose name he partially shared, leave without warning, without any hint or sign. It is in this house I watched his tiny chest rise and fall, his little fingers clutched into fists, his Mohawk of hair, dark above his forehead, swaying with the motions of his sleep.

It is here too that my son took his first steps, had his first fall, said his first words. It is here that without words he tells me he loves me, as he gently presses his cheek against my cheek, and then leans his head on my shoulder. It is our first house as a family, and so, it is the house I am finding hard to let go. Not the things in boxes with their sensible labels saying things like “Fragile” or even the more mysterious “Miscellaneous.”

Yet despite my uncertainty about where we are going from here, each time I fill a box I am feeling lighter. In an almost empty upstairs room I feel almost buoyant. I could hold my arms out and spin in circles and touch nothing. There is no stuff to be managed, dusted, or organized. No tiny shrines of thrift store purchases and passed down knickknacks. No more carefully arranged dresser top collections, assemblages artfully displayed. The room, emptied of stuff, feels somehow new again. I, too, want to feel something new again. A light breeze on my face, curling through spring treetops. A day, seen through my son’s eyes. A place that I will still want to call home, with rooms just big enough so that the house will echo with our laughter, where the walls will shake with our stories. A house just big enough to love.

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