before we left

I wrote this on June 4, 2016. We moved 6 weeks later and are now happily settled in a lovely little house in Charlottesville. I'll always cherish the days we spent at 932, but I am so thankful we moved forward.


I was perched on our bed, leaning against the wall we covered in a gray-green paint called "Fisherman's Wharf." A drowsy, drooling Ruby was draped over me, heavy eyes opening, closing, opening, closing. And I was staring at a pair of shoes.

Jordan's wardrobe is simple, sparse. T-shirts, a pair or two of jeans, a pair of black chinos, a few knit polos, a handful of oxfords. Black socks. A few pairs of shoes—everyday Vans, "special occasion"  Vans, hiking boots, running shoes. There are, tucked somewhere in our closet, a pair of black wingtips, pulled out when he is asked to be a groomsman or when he must attend a funeral. 

The particular pair of shoes that held my gaze were those "special occasion" Vans. Gray, with brown trim, tucked beneath the mid-century modern dresser I had long coveted, had offered to buy from Grandma, had been given. The shoes are almost always there, pulled out and worn on date nights or during a conference presentation. One shoe was—likely still is—slightly askew, tipped up, sole resting precariously on the other's side. They had been put there in a hurry, unpacked from a sandy suitcase in the flurry of bittersweet homecoming.

Homecoming. Home. We came home from a blissful vacation, to our own bed, and slept soundly. And there I was, two weeks later, gazing at a pair of shoes, blindsided by a homesickness for what will soon no longer be mine.*

I looked at Ruby, sleeping. A year ago, we were likely in the same place. We had passed a lot of time there, sleeping and snuggling and breathing air thick with newness and love and hope. My nest. A perch from which I could hear the voices of our neighbors and the cooing of doves, see the blue sky over our neighbor's roof, and feel the warm spring breeze, unseen and safe.

Jordan and I have been ready to leave this town for years. Many of our friends, old and new, have found home here. We haven't. We made a home, though, here, in this little yellow house. Nearly four years ago, we signed the papers and gingerly took the keys. Full of hope and dreams, we unlocked the front door and filled our house with thrifted furniture and the smells of home-cooked food. 

When we grew weary and lonely, when we did not find the home we longed for, we carried our confusion and sorrow into this house. We spent nights arguing, crying, staring at a screen and wishing for something different. We collected books, searching, I think, for answers, for justification, for understanding. I moved the furniture, vacuumed obsessively, gave up and let the dust collect.

When we came home from a weekend away and the floor creaked out a tired greeting, we knew we were home. After a long day, we shuffled into the kitchen and Jordan did dishes while I cooked. Or we ordered take-out and we spent the evening giggling, dancing, talking. 

We had parties and dinners and breakfasts. These walls were often full of our beloved friends and family, our table laden with bread and soup and salad. 

Something was always out of place. A sweatshirt thrown on a table, a glass left to sweat on a shelf. Dishes in the sink, dog hair collecting on the steps, books stacked on every available surface. But I won't remember that. What I will remember is how one shoe rested on the other. 

I'll remember how we weathered the lonely years, how we made so much with so little. I'll remember that it was here that we learned to ask the questions and to listen—for years—for answers. I'll remember that it was here we became parents, here we held and fed and marveled at our daughter. I'll remember that this was home.