Yesterday I spent nearly seven hours at the old house dusting windowsills and mopping very dirty floors. I’m thinking that anyone who is interested in buying a house should maybe check and see if the owners suffer a bit of OCD, because the woman who is buying our house is so getting the benefits of my disease, and not just because we patched up the holes in the wall where I threw a carton of milk at Jon’s head and he ducked at just the right second.
Never before has that house been so clean, and people, that house has seen some very clean days. Cleaning is the primary way I deal with stress, and if you go back and look at the last four years of my life and make a graph of my stress, you can pretty much assume that at any given moment in those four years you could have run your tongue along the floor from the living room through the kitchen into the bedroom and it would have tasted like rainbows.
The majority of my time yesterday was lost on the kitchen cabinets. Every time I would wipe down a shelf I would look over to see how many more shelves there were to clean, and I am not even kidding, they would magically multiply right in front of my eyes. The more shelves I cleaned, the more there were to clean. I don’t remember ever having that many shelves in that kitchen, and I know for a fact that there were many times that we ran out of room and had to store bags of Doritos in our bed. Next to my mouth.
Last night after we put Leta to bed I drove back over there to finish mopping the dining room, and after I loaded the last ten boxes of crap that we had yet to move over I took a walk through the empty rooms. My footsteps echoed off the bare walls onto the naked oak floors, and I couldn’t believe how small it seemed, small and warm and very much like home. I loved that house dearly, even had nightmares about waking up in a different house and not ever being able to see the beautifully preserved wood door frames and baseboards. I know that’s a total first-world type of nightmare to have, and it’s not like I woke up and turned over to find that my husband had been eaten by wolves that had broken into our mud hut.
I am aware of this. You don’t need to point out that I should just shut up already.
More than the kitchen that we lovingly and blood-sweatingly remodeled, or the porch where we spent many warm summer nights talking to neighbors and watching kids run through the yard, I think the thing that gets me the most about leaving that house behind is the memory of what I went through with Leta as a new baby, in particular the hours I spent breastfeeding her in the middle of the night, my hand on her fuzzy head, my gaze set on a street light that I could see through the window in her room. I remember feeling overwhelmingly inadequate, like I had been thrown over the side of a boat in the ocean and didn’t know how to swim.
Those sleepless, anxious nights are the most distinct memory I have of her first year of life, a year when I could actually see the walls of that small house closing in on me. And last night when I stood in her doorway looking at the now empty room, I wanted to reach out and hug the very tired and irritable person I was then and tell her that it’s all going to be okay, because that’s exactly what she would want to hear. And then maybe throw in something about how that stubborn baby attached to her chest is going to turn out to be pretty neat, I promise, just hold on a little longer.