Trying to buy a home with your wife is much like like naming a baby with your wife. After careful discussion, consideration and reading every book there is on the topic, you will, inevitably, lose your mind. She’ll rule out every house you like because it “just doesn’t feel right” or “smells funny” or “reminds her of that jerk she dated in high school.” She’ll veto the house that you love without taking into consideration your practical arguments like “it’s really cheap” and paternal instincts like “In this house I could envision myself raising a finely groomed mustache.”
So when we stumbled upon our two-story house in St. Bernard, we decided to buy it because—well, it depends who you ask. My wife will tell you we bought it because she was tired of looking at houses and this one “didn’t suck that bad.” If you asked me, I’d tell you we bought it because my wife passed on a nicer house that, in her words, “lacked character,” which is code for “looks like every other cookie-cutter house.” (Keep in mind it’s also code for “has two-car garage,” which should always trump “character.”)
Either way, it clearly wasn’t our dream house when we first moved it. It needed fresh coats of paint. It lived behind overgrown bushes. Only half the windows worked. It had one of those old, giant, metal antenna’s sticking out from the roof like the mast of an old pirate ship. The electrical outlets had only two-prongs, a metaphor for a house that didn’t want to adapt to the 21st century.
Moving in felt like taking over 0-16 football team and being asked to mold it into a playoff contender. And we did just that. We ripped up wallpaper and laid down carpet. We re-glazed tile and replaced all light fixtures. We reseeded bald spots with grass and planted beautiful flowers in order to fool our new neighbors into thinking that we were professional horticulturalists (something they’d wise up to over the next eight years when I’d routinely cut our grass two weeks later than I should).
The Minmor House will forever be known to me as the home where I started my family. My family. It is the first home our daughters ever knew, as we brought each one of them home from the hospital and proceeded not to sleep for the next 6 months. I can remember the spot where Ella crawled for the very first time, determined to get the TV remote like she was Indiana Jones in pursuit of the grail. I remember the time I spent hours with Anna looking under the dresser because she was convinced SpongeBob was under there—and she was right! I remember the exhaustion I felt trying to keep up with Mia, chasing her around our circular first floor as she knocked over everything in her way.
This didn’t start out as our dream house, but over time it became the house that made all our dreams come true. And unlike my parents’ house where we were forced to say goodbye, we were choosing to say goodbye to the Minmor House in an “It’s not you, it’s us” kind of a way.
Dear Minmor House,
It’s not you, it’s us. You’ve been loving and caring. You’ve forgiven us for tracking softball field mud across your floors and shooting baby vomit on your walls. You’ve worked hard to make this work, and I’m forever grateful for that.But we’re to a point in our lives now where we need more. We need another bedroom. We need a room where our toys can live freely and are less likely to puncture our feet. We need two full bathrooms so that we (my wife and daughters) don’t need four hours to get ready for events and can do it in the reasonable time of “under two.” Most important, we need a house that has kids on the street—and that’s just something you can’t fake, no matter how hard you try.We will miss you dearly, but it’s time to move on. In the words of the future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rock legends Fall Out Boy, Thnks Fr Th Mmrs.
OK, so I didn’t actually leave a note (mainly because I had already packed up all the pens into moving boxes), but I did walk around to each room in the house and said goodbye. I had my middle daughter Anna with me as we made our final trip moving stuff out of the house. I carried her around from room to room, having trouble letting go—of the house, of her. I couldn’t help but remember all the laughter and smiles we’d had in that house. And, for some reason, that brought on tears. When Anna asked me why I was crying I said, “I’m going to miss this place.”
She leaned in and gave me a big hug. It was the best farewell hug I could have ever imagined.
“Yes sweetheart,” I said as I wiped tears from my eyes.
“It’s time to go.”
And she was right. Nevermind that she was too young to appreciate the moment. Nevermind that her mature comment had less to do with her astute intuition and more with her need to pee really, really badly. It was time for us to go and to start the next chapter in our lives, the two-car-garage chapter in our lives.
But I’ll always take the memories of the Minmor House with me, wherever I go. After all, any house can be your dream house so long as it’s filled with people you love.
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