The tree was ablaze in an orange color usually reserved for crisp October days, yet there it was in the middle of the September evening. We'd already been treated to a sunset full of lilac and peach over rolling hills and beyond lakes. The beauty of it all had been reported back and forth from kid in Vehicle A to kid in Vehicle B via walkie talkie. But now the sun was grasping at the horizon before the final hurrah of the day and we were stopped at a random rest stop, Parking Only the sign reported, in the middle of Iowa for yet another unplanned potty break. No, wait, this was an unplanned nursing stop to hopefully usher Asher into the Land of Nod. The other three were unplanned bathroom breaks. It's hard to keep it all straight. I sat in the car, nursing Asher in the driver's seat as his feet pushed on my forearm and his hand gave me high fives. He's a busy littler nurser bee. And there was the tree in the background. Majestic. That's the word. And the big kids were playing a game of ultimate tag, happy for a chance to break up the road trip with some time to run. It involved rock, paper, scissors and tag and statues and funny dancing. They flopped and ran and paused and tagged, but mostly they laughed the big, raucous laugh of childhood. It rang through the crisp evening air, carefree and happy and only there in that fun moment. Not wishing for more or wondering what was ahead. Just happy to be playing in an open field under the darkening night sky with a majestic orange tree as the background.
And that was my first glimpse, my first moment, of knowing it was going to be okay.
Approximately 1% of our day went as planned on Thursday. The part where we signed our names on lots of paper and became homeless and neighborless and what felt an awful lot like friendless.
For weeks I'd been in the hunker down and get it done stage. I'd start to think too much and get too sad and I'm just tell myself, "Don't think. Just pack." It worked. I got through a lot of emotional times without breaking down because there was just so much that had to get done. I wanted to be strong and positive for my kids. I wanted to focus on all of the good stuff coming down the pike for us.
All of which is fine and good, but the time still comes when you pull up to your driveway at 9:28 for your Thursday morning walk-through and realize you'll never pull into that driveway again. The time still comes when the new homeowners walk into your house as you wipe snot and tears off of your face and you realize that this house that used to be your home would be their home. Their laughter would ring off the walls and their tears would splash on the countertops and their pictures would line the walls and their memories would fill the house with life again, turning it back into a home.
We walked through the house and answered their questions and I started to tell them something about the boys' room, but realized to them it was just the blue room and then about Asher's room, but remembered they knew that as the gray and yellow room. These were our rooms. Our home. Our walls for pictures and our place for making memories.
It was a really hard time. I could not stop crying.
Everyone went downstairs. I walked through those bedrooms. The ones that have housed my babies for 6+ years. I stopped in our room first. "Thank you for this space and for the memories we made here." Then Asher's room, which used to be Elliot's room. The room I brought my two littlest babies home to. The room I painted "Elliot blue" and now gray with a splash of yellow. "Thank you for this space and the memories we made here." Audrey's room with its "perfectly Audrey" yellow walls that again look overpowering without the taming power of the furniture. "Thank you for this space and the memories we made here." Isaac and Elliot's room, where just two nights ago we had three mattresses on the floor and all five of us (asher was sleeping in his crib) laid on the floor and talked about our favorite memories and what we would miss and what we would look forward to. We hugged and talked and teared up, but never cried because someone would lighten the mood and because we were talking about such happy, beautiful times. The years we've spent growing and becoming us, a family of five, now six, happened in this house. What a gift. So, yes, in that room too, "Thank you for this space and the memories we made here."
And then it was time to go. They left first. I stood in this empty space and looked around and wished I had about a thousand more minutes to soak it up. But if I had a thousand more minutes I'd get greedy and wish for a thousand more. So I walked out. I loaded the kids into the car and looked at our house and wiped more snot and tears and drove away.
We went and signed paperwork and did the 3,512 other things that weren't on our scheduled agenda for the day, but popped up just to make sure that the day was absolutely insane instead of mildly amusingly insane.
Then we drove and drove and drove. And now we're in Omaha and it's weird and it's not home and since we're only here for two months it'll never be home, but I hope it won't feel quite so foreign after a few days. The kids keep going by the front door to walk up the stairs, but this house doesn't keep the stairs there. I look around for a trace of us, but it is just sterile pictures and lots of pillows on beds.
We're making our way. The kids are doing really well. We're giving extra snuggles and talking more and offering a little more grace and forgiveness because we're all tired and out of sorts and hungry for a safe place to call home. We don't have a home right now in the physical sense, so we can only be home to each other. So that's what we're doing.
And we're hanging on tight to those moments that remind us that we're going to be okay.