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When I imagined saying goodbye to the house I’d lived in for 8 ½ years, I pictured a scene from a sitcom: the main character turns back at the doorway to have one last glance at the home where she’s grown so much, releasing a single tear and a secret smile, before turning out the light and closing the door for good. Cue laugh track. 

That’s not exactly how it happened for me last week, though here’s what I kept thinking as I walked through the rooms that have been my home for nearly a decade: I had no idea how much life I would experience in them when I signed my lease. I arrived on the coast with only what I could carry in my beloved Honda Fit; it contrast, it took a crew of friends and a moving truck to make our exit. And I am no longer an I, even; with my son, I am a permanent we.  

The walls in that home watched me grow. Welcomed me back from walks and runs and occasional tipsy nights out. Saw me single, married, divorced, pregnant, nursing, parenting. Witnessed me falling in love. Held my sleepless nights, gave me comfort when I lost people and pets I loved. That little house, all five rooms of it, gave me the room to be myself: to write, to cry, to laugh, to cook, to do pushups, to lay on the floor reading, to collect the things that proved I’d been somewhere, done something. 

At night, I’d listen to the foghorn, the waves, the people passing by, the neighbor’s barking dog, the sirens that run closer in a spot downtown. I could watch the sunset from my porch and grab glimpses of it from my kitchen window, though both views were obstructed by low buildings and power lines. 

I grew to love the power lines. 

During the pandemic, friends delivered food and gifts to my porch, where I kept two chairs and a small table but where I rarely sat. In the days when trails and businesses were closed, I’d walk the streets through town, keeping my pregnant distance from others, grateful that the clean air was accessible to me whenever I started to feel too housebound. I set up my standing desk for the new reality of working from home, glancing over throughout the days to see my dogs watching me. In so many ways, they were my best friends. They’d been true puppies there, scared and shadowing one another, before settling in. 

In the kitchen, I made cookies and hosted friends. There were never enough chairs to go around, and I’d spend those meals thinking how lucky I was to have found a community. Once, I cut my hand washing a glass and it gushed blood, leaving a scar right over my knuckle. Once, I rolled out pie crusts on a Thanksgiving morning when my child was a baby, and wept for the good fortune of my life. 

In that house, I bought furniture and other furniture, wrote letters and eulogies, put on music and danced. I curled up in pain and in comfort. I read books that I loved and once, awakened my then-husband with my sobs because a novel –The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai – was so powerful. In that house, I dressed in all white to vote for who I believed would be the first female president, and in that house the next morning, I woke up crying because I was so distraught about the actual outcome of the election. 

As I walked through my home for the last time, I marveled at how unchanged it was from when I moved in. It’s a little worse for the wear – more holes in the walls, a couple of random spots on the carpet, a raw section where one of my puppies chewed on the French doors to the porch when he was teething – but I took care of it as best I could. The story of my life there is one that no one else can fully know; the house will keep my secrets. 

But I kept thinking, as I walked through the house: I was here. That’s what it is. I lived fully there. I came to know myself better than I ever had before. So when I closed the door, the tears on my face were ones of gratitude. 

I was a person here, I thought to myself. 

And then I walked down the front steps, got into my car, and carried on. Another little house was waiting for me, ready to hold my life, my love. Ready to welcome me home. 

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