The Downsizing Chronicles: An Average Suburban House
5843 Shady Hills Way is an average white-sided house with black shutters, in a suburban neighborhood. It is just like so many others here on our side of town. One might say cookie cutter. By the standards of the typical American house, I imagine it would be considered quite nice, but in fact, it is very much average in comparison to the MacMansions that have sprung up on all sides. And confession: it’s hard not to compare. According to the real estate listing, it has 5BDR, 2.5BA, it is in a very good school district.
These numbers and abbreviations that sell a house, will sell our home.
Indeed, it is far from the most dramatic space I have ever occupied.
After all, I grew up on an orchard in Central Pennsylvania, in a rambling farmhouse with beloved parents, grandparents and 4 siblings. We struggled and worked so hard for everything. The reality is that this house, for most of my childhood was in poor shape. It wasn’t until I was in high school that my parents could begin to afford the repairs it needed. But that is not what I remember. What I remember is kind of like Paradise, the air full of apple blossoms, the dinner table full of food and family.
From there I proceeded to a series of college dorm rooms, which I hardly remember at all and mostly couldn’t wait to get out of. But then… there was the pensione in Rome during my junior year abroad, which I remember as fantastically wonderful. When in fact was freezing cold, had intermittent running water and practically no modern amenities. But what I remember is that it was Rome for goodness sake, and I was 20 years old, and that says it all.
And then there was our first house as a married couple, on the island of Guam. My husband was an Air Force officer, and this was his first duty station. My thought at the time, when he carried me over the threshold, was that these structures that made up base housing were dismal concrete boxes, unfurnished and cold, in the jungle, and my heart sank. Marriage was about to get real. But what I remember is the long honeymoon, and the first sofa, the sunset over the coral reefs.
There were other spaces, each memorable in their own way. But this house….at 5843 Shady Hills Way. When I first saw it on a cold day in January, I can’t say I was all that impressed. Our house in Pennsylvania had sold, my husband had a new job, we had a 2-year-old, and we needed to move quickly. Short term, we figured.
In retrospect, I now understand the most important moments, the most meaningful stories, the most significant people, are often met, and begin, on an average day, in an average space.
The cookie-cutter became the one in which we lived the longest of all our years, over 2 decades now. This is where the baby grew up. This is where we placed the puppy in her arms, that almost 15 years later lies worn out and sleeping, in front of the fireplace. This is where the parties happened, and friendships were formed with the neighbors living next door and down the street in their own cookies. This is where we laughed and cried, and laughed so hard we cried. This is where our daughter went from playing dress up, the giggling little princess, to what seemed like just a few years later, getting dressed for the prom, and then packing for college. This is the place in which our family story played out, for better and for worse.
The baby graduated from college this year and will be moving into an apartment, leaving the nest empty. Neighbors have moved away, taking the festivities with them. My husband and I are moving to a cute 55+ community one county over.
Soon, a For Sale sign in the yard.
So now…how do we say goodbye? All the milestones, all the big stuff–all that adulting that is behind us rather than in front of us. This is the end of an era. This was life, not average at all, at 5843.
How do we say goodbye?