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Updated: Jul 10, 2020

We’re in a new house. Moved in on New Years Day in the middle of the coldest, snowiest winter week in Upstate NY so far this season. I’m not sure what we were thinking. But we’re in and settled and making it our own place nonetheless.

This morning the kids held me to my word that we’d drive by our old house on the way to the sitter (they catch the bus with her kids in the morning). As we pulled out of our driveway, the tune “Sing Along” by the Virginia Coalition came up on the iPod. Under normal circumstances, this song evokes a bit of nostalgia-like feelings. But as we turned onto our old street, slowing down to pass our old house–as I said “well kiddos, it’s still there,” looked in the rearview mirror and saw all three of them with their heads on each other’s shoulders– the song seemed a perfect and heartbreaking soundtrack to the sense of nostalgia we were all feeling.

While Cam was far too little, my daughter’s old enough to remember our place in Falls Church. She’ll bring up the cats we had or riding in the kayak with me on the lake, but she had no emotional tie to it. To her then-toddler-mind, the location was incidental, like furniture in a room, or a rainstorm. We were there, and then we were simply someplace else.

But this house was hers, and her brothers’ too. They built their blanket-and-box forts and pirate hide-outs in the backyard. Ran with their friends till they came begging, flushed cheeks and out of breath for “water, please.” Transformed their rooms into lego and lincoln log cities, musical stages and “no boys (or girls) allowed” space to be alone. Made s’mores over the firepit on summer evenings, helped grow veggies in the garden and water the flowerbeds. Filled the sidewalks with chalk drawings in the summer and dug tunnels and caves in the snowbanks I made from shoveling in the winter. Their growth was measured in over 4 years of pencil marks on the wall in the kitchen.

That house was theirs– they had put their childhood stake in the ground there. And while the new place is only the equivalent of three blocks away and I know they’ll make even more memories as they make it their own– it’s still a mighty tough stake to pull.

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