The Last Day

Four years ago next month, my husband and I moved for the first time in 36 years. We emptied our beloved home of…well…everything. Lots of “stuff” as I generally referred to it all. It actually took many years to get to the point where we could pack up and move. Little by little, carload by carload. I unearthed boxes and bags of long held treasures that needed new homes – which in this case meant antique shops, Craig’s List, Goodwill, the Salvation Army and a few garage sales (not my favorite thing as everyone haggles over the smallest items which quickly becomes tiresome).

I have written about the downsizing process when I started this blog. It was a slog, but I remained fixed on the goal: Simplify our lives and reduce stress. Unforeseen “things” had been happening for a number of years. Health issues mostly. I knew that our priorities had to shift…requiring change. Major change. Not one to wait for a crisis, I went into planning mode. It evolved into a long term plan which took place over about five years.

We finally found a new place to live that we could afford. A condominium where we would have less work to do. All on one level to reduce the risk of falling as we got older. Near my husband’s job. It is a beautiful place – certainly not perfect – with its own challenges as we discovered, but the right decision in the long run.

So, packing up in 2016, we prepared for the future…again. To make life easier for our “golden years.” An empty nest would bring new and hopefully exciting opportunities for our next chapter.

But nothing really prepared me for the very last day. That day in October 2016 when the house was finally…completely…unoccupied.

Empty of all that was us. Our family.

I was alone that last day. It was a sunny breezy fall afternoon as I made the last rounds – the final check to make sure all the closets and cabinets were empty. The holes in the walls patched and painted…erasing all evidence of the photographs that had hung there for years. Marking holidays and birthdays and sports and graduations proudly displayed down halls and around corners. We were a well documented family. Mostly because of my obsession with freezing time with a 35mm Canon.

So of course that’s what I did that last day – I took pictures with my (digital) Canon – of all the rooms in our (still ours until the following day) home. Which had grown from 4 rooms and 1 bathroom in 1980 to 7 rooms and 2 bathrooms in 2016.

I had a moment though as I stood in the original living room space that last day. Remembering through tears the very first time we had occupied it…filled with packing boxes and hand-me-down odd pieces of furniture one cloudy April day in 1980.

It was just my husband and me – so young still – in our twenties.

The first thing we did was hook up the turntable and speakers, snaking the wires between all the unpacked stuff. We found Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in a box of records and dropped the needle on “Our House.”

We sang and celebrated the beginning of what would be a grand adventure.

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Unoccupied

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #111: stuff happens

35 thoughts on “The Last Day

  1. Through your words, I can imagine the emotions and the difficulty of leaving your long-time home behind. But life goes on and you are in a better place both at home and otherwise today I hope. 😊

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  2. New beginnings always come with sense of adventure and worry. I’ve moved lots, and always the stereo is one of the first things to set up, music always brings a sense of place… “Our House” always brings me back to the home my husband and I first rented together.

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    1. Thanks, yes, it is an odd juxtaposition of feelings…adventure and worry. You’re so right about the music and a sense of place. Certain songs just bring us right back, don’t they 🙂

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  3. I imagine living somewhere so long and raising a family then leaving it — voluntarily — must have taken courage and faith. Leaving my house in Descanso, CA, where I moved in 2003 and left in 2014, where I had imagined I would always live, is the closest I have come to what you beautifully describe here. Like you, I had to go before things got very difficult. My new life in this small Colorado town was based on necessity (I could afford it) and resolution, but maybe that’s the start of all new lives. I love that you two — in 1980 — set up the stereo first. ❤

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    1. Thank you so much Martha. 😊 It really was an experience I guess I am still processing. Not many people understand the enormity of uprooting – even voluntarily – after decades. And the reasons why, despite how hard it is. Yes, I can still see the piles of boxes and him standing there grinning and holding up the album… “I found it!” and the stereo blasting soon after. ❤️

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      1. It’s traumatic. I tried explaining it to my realtor (who’s also a friend) that I was fully aware that I was moving to the last stage of my life and it scared me. She didn’t get it at all. And even though I moved somewhere I love, it wasn’t really my choice. I realized sometime at the end of 2019 that I was finally HERE but it took five years!!!

        Right now, a few miles from my CA home, there’s a major brush fire. I saw the news, the roads, the hills, all of it, so familiar and so beloved. I think, you know, like your beautiful image of your husband and the album? These places form our hearts, become who we are. Because of love, we never leave, in a way.

        I learned that writing my hiking book. What I learned in CA hiking those trails defined and formed THIS person and taught me HOW to be in The Big Empty.

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      2. Not many people understand. I do have a friend who moved to SC with her husband when they retired. She told me it would take at least a year to adapt. That eased it for me knowing it was “normal” to take a while. It’s been almost 4 years and it feels like it is finally sinking in. I love how you put it – “these places form our hearts, become who we are…” – that really hit home, Martha, and I thank you for that. That’s exactly it. “My” old house isn’t too far away and every once in a while I’ll drive by and sit parked across the street for just a few minutes and look at it and think. It’s familiar and yet not…now. So I guess I “visit” but less and less.
        Those CA fires look so scary on TV and it must be heartbreaking knowing they may be threatening your “old” home.
        I’ve thought of writing about living and learning in that house. I guess I’ve started.

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      3. I would love to read that. Last September I went to Denver — the first time for real since I moved back after leaving in 1984. Even though so much has changed I knew my way around. I saw the house I lived in right after I was born (being torn down!) and all the places I lived in my 20s until I went to China. It meant so much to me to know that they were (mostly) still there. I could imagine a little bit of my spirit lingering in each place, and the spirits of my friends (some of whom are dead). I think that had a lot to do with my finally feeling that this is my home. I think “seeing” it helps ground us in the present moment somehow. Anyway, I hope you write it.

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      4. Thank you. Maybe I really need to write it. Not sure how that will flow, but I feel drawn to it more now.
        Your trip to Denver reminds me…I went back to the houses I grew up in (in NJ) a few times many years ago. Curiosity and – as you say – to know they were still there. And to see how it would feel. My experiences in each house were not all that positive, but were distinctive in the part they played in my childhood. The earlier house (my age 4-11) looked exactly the same (structurally) although very run down, yard overgrown with junk everywhere (unlike all the other houses in the neighborhood). The other house (my age 11-18) had been demolished and replaced by a dark ugly tudor style mansion with a statue of a red bull out front (interesting…). The contrast was quite strange, yet fitting somehow.
        However, going back to see the home we left in 2016 is different. I like that a little bit of my spirit, as you say, may still reside there. ❤️

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      1. Ahh, yes. That does happen. We have filled up closets and corners since we’ve been here (much to our own dismay, as we vowed to stop saving stuff). Moving to someplace “tiny” would be a huge challenge!

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