Saying a Belated Goodbye


My three beautiful children in the leaves in front of our old house one fall.
My three beautiful children in the leaves in front of our old house one fall.

We moved into our Southfield house all full of hope and reverence. Eliana was growing in my belly, Asher was an eager toddler. We had hope for our marriage, for our growing family, for what the future held.

When we left that house 10 years later, we had a third beautiful child, but our marriage had crumbled and he had moved out years before. Now, the people leaving the house stocked with memories, whose walls remembered so much good, and so much bad, included a new husband and a stepdaughter.

The six of us last night saw the movie Inside Out, a brilliant film about how the brain works and the importance of all emotions to build a well-rounded personality. It occurred to me as we walked out into the muggy summer night that I never let sadness in when we left that house. We just left. No goodbye, no ritual, no acceptance that change is hard.

Dan and Asher remember Asher going to his room and crying that he didn’t want to leave. I don’t remember that. Perhaps I’ve blocked it out.

My boys with Gigi, my grandmother, in our old house.
My boys with Gigi, my grandmother, in our old house.

All I remember is saying positive things to encourage the kids in the direction of the new house, and acceptance of change. As a mother, I am chagrined that I never let them mourn, never said, it’s ok to feel what you’re feeling, of course it is hard to leave the only house you’ve ever known.

And so late last night, the kids and I sat on the couch and reminisced. Tears came. We couldn’t hug any closer than we did, all piled on one another.

In that house, I remember trying to get toddler-Asher to sleep in his big boy bed in the room next to ours. He’d have none of it, and so some nights I would lay there with him, falling asleep as he did, holding him on top of me to still his wiggles.

I remember painting the bedroom at the other end of the hallway a deep pink when my daughter was born. Me, not given to girly things, going as girly as possible for the little girl who is mine, Eliana. And I remember countless nights of not being able to get her to sleep, of wrestling with two children, myself exhausted on the big king-sized bed, hoping, praying, one or both of them would nod off sooner than I would.

My three kiddos playing dress up and pretend in our old family room.
My three kiddos playing dress up and pretend in our old family room.

I remember bringing Eliana home from the hospital, and Asher seeing me holding this little baby, and my little boy stomping off in anger. He didn’t speak to me for a day, and I wept, postpartum as I was, for bringing my son his first life disappointment.

In that house, we entertained 75 people on an unusually warm November Sunday for her simchat bat. Before she was born, on the first night of Sukkot, I remember the windows being open all night and the cool fall air wafting in, and the sounds of our neighbors singing their Friday night tunes in Hebrew from their sukkahs all around us, the contractions coming in measurable increments, as the beautiful music sailed in through our open windows.

I remember birthday parties for my children in that house and Shabbat dinners with my grandmother at the table. I remember the little den turned into my home office, where I wrote early in the mornings to earn money for my family.

I remember the stone hearth around the fireplace, and the mauve carpet of the family room, and the kitchen I always wanted to update but never did. I remember cooking, and cooking, and cooking in that kitchen, sometimes with a baby in a sling or baby backpack so they wouldn’t reach out for a knife or a flame.

I remember removing a beautiful tree in the yard and feeling a huge sense of loss for tearing it out of the ground. I remember the kids sitting in little chairs in front of the door wall, watching the lawn being mowed.

My four children in our old house.
My four children in our old house.

I remember Asher and Eliana in rain boots and rain coats, stomping through mud puddles in the backyard. I remember my kids growing too big for the little playhouse and climbing on top of it instead.

I remember Shaya in his bassinet in the middle of the family room, my last baby, sleeping soundly.

I remember calling a friend in Wyoming late one dark, dark night (that house was so dark – I always wanted to put in extra windows and never did), crying into the phone about how sad and lonely I was in my marriage.

I remember my littlest boy never wanting to sleep in his room by himself. He’d either traipse into his big sister’s bed or he’d come sleep beside me. Every single night.

And I remember a friend sage-ing the house and asking what oppressive energy was in that bedroom and me realizing that it used to be my ex-husband’s office, where a whole host of emotions must have filled the air and sapped the energy. No wonder Shaya never wanted to sleep in there, no matter how brightly colored the walls were.

There are so many memories from that house. And we left quickly, my eyes focused on the goal ahead, the new house, where we could become a family of six, make new memories, forget the mixed memories of the past.

Asher and Eliana on a trip to Acapulco in 2006.
Asher and Eliana on a trip to Acapulco in 2006.

Except those memories are core memories for my children, and probably for me. It’s where we really became a family of five, where sadness lived, yes, but also where happiness lived.

It’s where the kids sang and danced and played pretend and swam on the family room floor. It’s where we loved, loved, loved, so intensely, even through the pain.

Shame on me for not realizing all this a year and a half ago when we packed up and moved out. I apologized to my children, for being human, for not realizing the importance of saying goodbye, and of creating rituals for moving through our life’s transitions.

We all need that. We cannot avoid the truth.

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