SAYING GOODBYE TO OUR HOUSE, WITH LOVE By Tami Steckler
Thank you for these 21 years
I remember the first time I saw you. To be honest, I didn’t love you then. I thought your rooms were laid out strangely, and your kitchen was small. But something drew us back to you, not one more time, but twice. And then it was love. We moved in over the course of a month, and on August 6th, 2000, we slept in your bedrooms for the first time.
From the start, you welcomed all comers, old friends and new, with your open space, and open doors. The first thing we bought, which now makes so much sense, was a dining room table. Not just any table but one that could expand to fit 14 people comfortably, and 16 a little less so. Somehow, we knew that you would attract crowds, and we wanted to be ready.
Avery was just 6 months old, Colton turned 9 – days after we moved in – and Michael was 21, grown but not flown. Chris was 34, and I turned 41, also just a few days after we drove the packed Hyundai, teeming with suitcases, boxes, two cats and a dog, into your driveway.
From that day forward, we knew you were a keeper, somewhere we would plant roots and grow for a while – and from the start we housed some “extras” (Mike’s friend, and my mother, who lived with us for the first five years). Every time we thought there was not enough room, your walls found a way to expand to accommodate as many people as we welcomed through your doors.
As we acclimated to you and Maplewood, we met our neighbors, explored all the places to go, picked our favorite spots, and played endlessly in Orchard Park. Colton was thrilled to be able to explore the town on his own and walk the few blocks to school in September. Your stoop became his non-stop “baseball” backstop. Michael found a job in town and searched for his true calling, which ultimately came in the form of a volunteer job at Maplewood Rescue, which in turn led him down his professional path. Avery started to crawl, met the Jefferson kids who would become his closest friends, and quickly became a part of the fabric of your town.
Of course, we filled your rooms with birthday parties, holiday dinners, victory celebrations, raucous game nights, preschool to high school graduations, many meals with family and friends, and unconditional love. Your side door was always unlocked, your front door was always open, and no one knocked.
We painted your walls, made the living room the dining room, and then moved it back, played musical chairs with your bedrooms as the kids grew and flew, and lived fully in every single room (except that one in the back which we could never quite figure out). We tried to grow grass, put in a garden, played out in the street, and grilled on your deck.
You were a haven for those that were temporarily lost or those that needed some loving care for a while. From the friends of our children, to extended family, to foster children, you hugged them tight, and made everyone feel warm and accepted, and of course, well-fed. And while you witnessed some terrible times, I think most of the time you reverberated with the sounds of laughter, lively conversation, the voices of children, dogs baying, all kinds of music, dancing in the kitchen, teens roaring in from a snow day football game in the park and the constant hum of a house that strained at its seams to contain all the people, meals, milestones, movie nights, sleepovers, Christmas mornings, Passover seders, disagreements, and Rummikub tournaments you hosted. And, of course, the farewells, as each person who passed through the doors for a minute or a lifetime moved on, leaving me and Chris sitting together on a couch in your now empty rooms, feeling nostalgic but satisfied, knowing that you were and have always been our very best decision.
So, thank you, house, for giving us this space – this wonderful, perfect space – to raise our family and so many others, and for never once complaining as we pushed you to your physical limit, kept you up for many late nights, and treated you as a complete afterthought, as we lived and loved each day within your sturdy walls. Thank you, for embracing us for the past 21 years, so that we could embrace others. We will miss you.
Tami Steckler is a "chronic intervenor" (according to her children) who loves chaos, crowds and kids, and is ever so slowly adjusting to her new normal in Maplewood.