(Warning: Mel, you are sleeping while I write this, so I hope you get my text before reading blogs today. I’d like to give you proper notice that this post is going to be rough. If you’re on your way to work soon, just stop. Read it later.)
Sometimes my ceaseless list-making comes back to bite me.
A few weeks ago when Dwayne and I were packing up our house and preparing to move, we came across this list. It was written 5 years ago when were in the process of dreaming about the future with our friends Mel & Jeff. Longing to create intentional community. To live side by side, to be a part of each others every day lives, to share a yard and belongings and meals together. We actually hoped to do this with a number of families, but we couldn’t seem to convince anyone else to join us. Weird, right? I guess it sounded a little too close for comfort to most people. Our culture places such a high value on having our own privacy and personal space, so this arrangement all sounded a little risky. What if I want to sit on my deck and my neighbour comes outside and wants to talk? Or what if they just drop by unannounced? Or what if their kids keep coming over to play? Doesn’t it all just seem a little too close? I have to admit, I had moments of reservation myself, because I am a recovering extreme privacy valuer. I wondered if it would be more than I bargained for, but trusted our vision and knew I was mature enough to deal with bumps in the road.
So we persisted. We were convinced this was our preferred way to live. We searched out different options, looking for one we could afford in the right school catchment for our kids. And in the process of dreaming, I wrote this list. The list was about a house. A dream house. If I could dream big and envision exactly what I want in a house, this is what it would look like. I was very specific, as you can see.
And amazingly, we found a feasible option, and we built those side-by-side houses. And boy, did I ever get more than I bargained for. More, in all the best ways. If you’ve never really experienced community with another family in this way, it’s hard to fully explain the joys and benefits, but once you’ve lived it, it’s hard to imagine living any other way. The multiple daily encounters between each of the members of our families. The hundreds of little parts of each others lives we shared that we wouldn’t have if we’d had to arrange get togethers. The ease of access our kids had to play with each other, all day, every day. The back up when we needed an egg, a cup of milk, extra forks, extra chairs, an extra oven, an extra bed. Sharing a garden and a sandbox and a trampoline. Having grown up time while the kids sleep in their own beds, without hiring a babysitter. Never having to mow my own lawn. Way more than I bargained for.
So, back to the list. We found it in a folder of brochures and samples and invoices from when we built the house. Dwayne opened up the folder and asked me what I wanted to do with it, and the grief washed over me. I read the list and realized it perfectly described the house we were already living in. The house we had just sold and were packing up. This house was everything I wanted. So I cried. Pretty hard. And after a couple of minutes of crying I walked out my front door, across our shared front lawns, through Mel’s garage and into her house with just the usual quick knock. I found her in her kitchen and through my sobs I passed her the list. I fell onto her bar stool and asked her what on earth I was doing. I was living in my dream house, so why, oh why would we leave? With my face down on her kitchen counter, Mel just held me and rubbed my back and let me cry. I remember she also said something encouraging after a couple of minutes, although I can’t remember now exactly what that was. Because here’s the thing – the big thing: what I will miss more than the house is that short walk into the arms of my friend. I didn’t have to plan it. I didn’t have to call her. I didn’t have to arrange to drop by or ask her to come over after work. I took the 15 steps to her house and found her there. I didn’t usually take those steps to cry. Most days, I took the steps just to say hi. Or to show her something funny. Or because I was unmotivated to work. Or I was looking for my children and knew where I’d find them. Or because I figured she’d probably just baked scones and I felt like a snack. There were plenty of reasons to take those steps, and I took them often.
So yes, I was living in my dream house and I loved it. Really loved it. But it’s true, it is just a house. And although I feel the loss of it, that’s because it’s all tied up with something much bigger. The loss of shared daily living and shared space with friends. The loss of the future we thought we were building there. I find myself grieving the loss of the house right now, because the bottom line is, the thing that made our home so valuable to me, besides who lived in it, was who lived next door.