One Dozen Memories

There’s nothing left here: no real camera, no people, no “stuff” to take pics of.
Just me and my thoughts now. 

It’s our last night in our townhouse, right now Ryan’s at the rental house dropping off the last of our things, and I’m feeling sentimental about the change that’s occurring in our lives right now.

I have such crazy, mixed emotions about leaving this, our first house, our first home. I know that my personality is to move forward in life and not to linger back; I know instinctively that I’ll never return to this house or neighborhood again. That terrifies and saddens me, so I’m desperate to record everything I loved about this home before I move on to bigger and better things. I just don’t ever want to forget how much this place meant to us in the seven years we lived here, and I know that time will rob me of these memories if I don’t write them down now.

One Dozen Memories I Never Want to Forget About Our First House

1. Wedding woes! We closed on our house two weeks before we got married. I moved in immediately, but we hadn’t gotten a chance to get a bed yet. So I slept on the couch. It wasn’t as bad as it seems; we had received fluffy pillows and a down mattress topper at a shower, so I just pretended I had a really skinny mattress instead of a couch. You may be wondering why I moved in if we didn’t have a bed. Well, I was a bit obsessive about my wedding details (surprise, surprise), and since I didn’t trust anyone else to do anything, I needed lots of space to craft. (And, oh, did I craft!) Late into the night, I’d be there, hot gluing and assembling without an end in sight. We didn’t have cable or internet yet, but I did have one DVD from the first “Sex and the City” season, and it was on repeat for two straight weeks. I knew it all by heart rather quickly, so the sound of it in the background became my comforting wedding-prep soundtrack. When the big day arrived, I spent my last night as a bachelorette on the couch (glamorous), and then had to take a bath and wash my hair under the spout because we didn’t have a shower curtain yet (double glamorous). I felt both embarrassed and proud that morning: We were too “poor” to afford a shower curtain, but we were homeowners-about-to-be-married! Whenever I think about our wedding day, I’ll always think about this house.
2. Our first “argument.”  Ryan and I rarely ever fight, and even when we do, what we call a “fight” really is just a differing of opinions. That being said, our first tension-filled, tough moment came just after our first Christmas as a married couple. Here we had this beautiful, new townhouse, and for the entire first month we lived there, it was trashed. With wedding gifts. And Christmas gifts. And things we had each brought from our past. And all of the new items we had exchanged and bought after the wedding. The problem, we later realized, is that we clean in completely different, incompatible ways. After a heated discussion about “the gifts” and junking up our “brand-spanking new home,” the conversation ended with me telling Ryan to go upstairs and let me take care of my “wifely duty” of cleaning the house. I was a bit angry, maybe a bit sarcastic, and definitely serious. It really only took an hour or so if I remember correctly, and as soon as it was over, we laughed about how ridiculous it all was. I can still picture the gifts piled high along the righthand wall where seating for guests now resides, and it makes me chuckle. An inauspicious beginning for what was to become a well-used place in our home…
3. Our “windows-open” first winter. We were especially careful about our budget when we first got married. We were just out of college, newly married, in our first jobs, and we had never been on our own before. I, in particular, was super cautious, so I wouldn’t let Ryan turn the heat on very high–many times at all. That winter was so freezing cold; I remember groaning at the alarm not because I didn’t want to get up, but because I didn’t want to leave my bed! I have a particular memory of pulling myself out of the warm bed and into the cold, only to have my feet physically hurt when I stepped on the bathroom tile. MIS-ER-A-BLE. It’s bad when you actually want to get into your car in December because at least you’ll have heat after a few minutes of driving. Then, somewhere around maybe March (remember, we’d gotten married the previous November), I heard Ryan say, “Oh. Oops.” from across the room. It turns out that someone hadn’t shut the window all the way, and it had been open an inch all winter. Someone. :)
4. Painting ups and downs. Since we bought our house new but didn’t build it, the main space was pre-painted a blah contractor beige but the bedrooms and bathrooms were white. I HATE painting, but since it’s a quick and cheap way to give life to a room, I spent a lot of time adding color to the walls our first year. I have two distinct painting memories, one good, one bad. The good one happened on New Years Eve, 2006. Ryan had been hired out to do a job, so we were going to spend it apart. I decided to surprise him by painting our half bath burnt orange. Halfway down to the job, it got cancelled (but he still got paid!), so he turned around to surprise me, only to find me up to my elbows in paint! It was a total “Gift of the Magi” moment. The bad memory happened in painting our master bedroom. I had picked out what I thought was a light, earthy green. Turns out it was pale lime green. Oops. I had painted the whole room while Ryan was away, and when he came home, his face solidified my suspicion: I had painted our master bedroom Winnie-the-Pooh-nursery-green. Cue tears. We went back to the paint store and got a good beige and a dark brown and I painted it–again. There are a few little slivers of that heinous green if you look closely enough, and although it caused me a lot of grief, now I chuckle when I see it.

5. Signing our names on the linoleum floor. A year after we moved in, we had adopted Oscar  (Olive hadn’t been born yet), and he was reeking havoc on our floors. At the time, we were unsure of what to do with him during the day: We both were working jobs with traditional hours and kenneling him all day seemed cruel. We opted to let him roam while we were away–which resulted in a chewed up carpet near the doorway. It seems that Mr. Oscar was anxious for us to come home, so he’d spend his time sitting by our tile “foyer,” just scratching and gnawing away at the edge of the carpet to wile away the day. We ended up with a giant hole at our front door which didn’t quite match our design aesthetic. Pair that with the giant stain where Oscar “exploded” (i.e. got really sick–as in projectile vomiting) in his kennel one day and the fact that we had undesirable linoleum in our kitchen area, and you can see why we decided to install wood floors. We were on a super, super tight budget, so we worked a deal on the materials and did the labor ourselves. It was hard…and fun…and rewarding…and we’ll never do it again. The last thing we floored over was the linoleum in the kitchen. Before we did so, we signed our names in Sharpie “for future generations.” Ha. I wonder how many years will pass before someone pulls up those boards?

6. Building our giant bed. Remember, we were “poor” when we first moved in? Well, we had decided that we wanted a real bed frame for our room, so when a local furniture store went out of business, we took advantage of their loss by buying two mantel headboards dirt cheap from them. We painted, cut one down to be a footboard, bought a mental frame and constructed side rails–basically made the bed from scratch minus a bit of detailing–all without a garage or driveway! It was a bit of a comedy to watch, especially since it was the dead of winter when we decided to take on the project. It was a labor of love, and when all was said and done, we piled the box spring, mattress, down mattress and fluffy duvet onto the bed–and gasped. Somehow we had mis-measured, and the top of the bed was even with the light switch (no exaggeration).  Oops. We were so exhausted that we just laughed and went to bed. It was so high you had to literally jump to hoist yourself into it–quite a ridiculous and hilarious sight. We meant to fix it, but the bed was functional and we had other things to do, so we procrastinated. For two years. People would come over, and as we gave them the tour, inevitably they’d gasp and then laugh when they walked in the bedroom. We’d laugh with them, but deep down I was so proud of that bed! Now we’re older and wiser and will never make such a mistake again, but I love the memory of that giant bed in our tiny townhouse.

7. Olive’s bench. Our townhouse has this odd little space upstairs where the laundry, master and guest rooms all meet. It’s not quite a den, not quite a hallway, and we’ve tried several different pieces of furniture up there to make use of the space. The first thing I ever bought for it was a muslin bench from an outlet store. Ryan and I upholstered it to add color, and for a long time it was a dumping ground for laundry. We eventually decided to do something else with the space, and so the bench got moved to our bedroom, where Olive quickly adopted it as her own. Unfortunately, over the years the bench has been destroyed. It’s a bit yucky from half a decade of puppy love and the seat is fraying. I’ve been meaning to re-upholster it for a while now; I even own the fabric. Now that we’re moving on, the bench will come with us, but definitely not in its current shape! I know that as soon as I switch out that fabric the bench will no longer feel like the homey, comforting piece that gave Olive her own little haven in our first house.

8. The bathroom door–or, rather, the lack thereof! While figuring out how to avoid kenneling the dogs all day while still protecting our home from their rambunctious tendencies, we came up with an odd solution. Our townhouse has a roommate floor plan, with full bathrooms connected to each bedroom. Since we never really used our guest bath, we decided to make that the dog’s “room.” The plan was for them to stay in the bathroom with their beds and some water while we were away. It was a great idea–except that we didn’t want them all closed up for eight hours a day in a bathroom. Hmmm. So we decided to nix the door altogether (which swung into the bathroom, taking up valuable space anyway) and get a baby gate so they would be confined but could still see out. Our dogs are smart(ish) and respond to several commands (none of which is “No barking!”), but perhaps the most consistent, easiest command has been, “Go to your room!” I’ll miss their “room,” and the look of surprise on everyone’s faces when we show them our “bathroom with no door.” :)

9. How big it seemed at first! When we bought this house, we were determined to close on it quickly so that I could host my bridesmaids’ luncheon (dinner, actually) here. We had owned it for a week by the time of the party, and I have this distinct memory of laying on the floor in the guest room (which was empty but save for a few boxes) and commenting on how big the place seemed. Up until this point in life, I had only lived at home, in the dorm, and in the sorority house, so I owned NOTHING but my clothes and toiletries. It literally took one car trip to get all of my things from my mom’s house to the townhouse. We had managed to get a couch and kitchen table delivered and a few things hung on the walls downstairs before the party (plus we borrowed a coffee table!), and I remember being proud when one of my bridesmaids commented on how great the place looked already. I’m grinning at the thought of it right now because things have changed SO much since then. Now I have way too much stuff to even fit in what seems like such a tiny space! The only two things that remain the same from the night of that party are a giant mirror and a frame collage that Ryan was gracious enough to install one late night for me. (The mirror hasn’t moved because it weighs a million pounds, and the frames were so much of a pain to hang that despite being crooked for seven years now Ryan still hasn’t recovered enough to fix them!) Now our house feels like it’s bursting at the seams with stuff, people and dogs. If only my 22 year old self could’ve known! :)

10. Our crazy neighbors. All of them: Lynette next door who we dreamed was in the Witness Protection Program because she was so quiet and because her “husband” had bullet holes in his car. The Russian across the street who always mysteriously has really nice, new cars in front of his house, who receives UPS packages every day, and whose wife, mom and sister-in-law all live in the neighborhood and look identical. Pearl (the dog) and her owner Susan who were always so sweet. Crazy Schnauzer Lady whose dog Sammy was such a pain until he was killed by a snake bite. The nice Spanish family who lived next door whose son was so excited to “inherit” Ryan’s old guitar. All of the Muslim families who live here to be close to work and to the mosque. And, of course, most importantly the Engerts, who we’ve known for so long but would’ve never been so close with if it weren’t for them moving in a few doors down. You guys made post-college life way more “college,” and we adored every minute of it.  Love and miss you guys.

11. Ms. Murray’s babies. Two years ago I got a harebrained idea: If I hung baskets outside our kitchen window, maybe a bird would nest there in the spring. I knew it was crazy, and I figured that even if it didn’t work, at least I’d have something pretty to look at while I did the dishes. Well, wouldn’t you believe it that a robin made her nest almost immediately! For whatever illogical reason I thought the bird was a boy and named “him” Murray, until someone pointed out that–duh–“he” was a “she.” So we started to call her Ms. Murray. She laid three perfect, tiny blue eggs in her nest, and I was smitten. I watched over those eggs, put out birdseed and water so that she could be close to her nest at all times, and researched and dreamed about having little baby birds at eye level! Then, right around when they should’ve hatched, Ms. Murray disappeared and I got worried. I sent Ryan to investigate, and he came back with bad news. Three baby birds had hatched–and died. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. I bawled. A lot. I came home from work on the day he discovered them, and Ryan asked me to come into the backyard. He had dug a little hole by the fence and carved a little eulogy into the wood; we buried them and I cried even more. It was a tough season for me, and the thought of leaving that faint carving in the fence makes me weepy even to this day. Thankfully I get to take the carver with me.

12. Where we became a family. I’ll never forget how nervous I was before the agency’s home inspection when we wanted to adopt Oscar. Is our little home good enough to adopt the puppy of our dreams? Or how we laid on the carpet and played with him that first time in front of the fireplace. A picture of Olive, terrified and hiding under our infamous red couch the first night we brought her home, will forever be ingrained in my mind’s eye. And how she hides in the closet or the tub when she’s scared or sad or upset. I mean, this townhouse is where we brought Emma Vance home from the hospital. This is her first home, where she spent her precious first few months of life. It’s where Ryan and I went from “Talie Aquilio and Ryan  Shove” to just “The Shoves.” It’s where we spent our first Christmas, Charlie Brown tree decorated in free Pottery Barn ribbon and all. It’s where we set up shop when we opened our own businesses, crammed into a corner in our master bedroom. It’s where we spent our twenties growing up, discovering who we were going to be in life. It’s where we became a family, and every inch, every corner is filled with those memories.

This house is truly our home. The only comfort I have is that all of the things that made this house a home–Ryan, Oscar, Olive and E.V.–are coming with me as we begin a new stage in life. I’m excited to make a new home with them, filled with barks and giggles and silent, sleepy nights, but I will never forget how good this one was to us for so many years.

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