When I was a kid, we moved a lot. We were not a military family, we just moved. It was all I knew, but nonetheless by the time I was around 10, I became wary of never fully unpacking our belongings or feeling settled. I started feeling jealous of my friends who had known each other since kindergarten. If there was ever a place that truly felt like home to me, it was my grandparents' house. This was my first home, where my mom brought me from the hospital, and where I always felt welcome and comfortable. I'm not really sure why I always thought of that house as my true childhood home. Maybe it was because my grandparents were always happy to have me there, maybe it was because I felt the tug of my roots, being in the house where my mom and aunts and uncles grew up. Or maybe it was simply because I spent the biggest chunk of my childhood there, broken up into short and long term living arrangements and a multitude of sleepovers and long summer days while my mom was at work. Whatever it was, I'm grateful that I had that experience of feeling at home, even when I never really felt that way anyplace else we lived.
I grew up and got married and wanted nothing more than to have a home and a family and to be settled. As it turned out, the first house Chris and I bought together was our home for nine years, the longest I have ever lived anyplace. I remember when we first moved in, waking up in my new bedroom and laying in bed, listening to the sounds of the neighborhood through the open windows, and feeling the blissful contentment of truly being home. I joyfully relished picking out paint colors and spending hours upon hours scraping wallpaper and ripping up old carpeting. This was our home, and we could do whatever we wanted! Chris and I would come home from our full time jobs and work our butts off late into the night, and we loved it. I felt blessed to finally be where I had wanted to be my whole life. For families looking to find their own first home, a website like militaryvaloan.com might prove to be extremely helpful.
A year later we had our first baby, and bringing our daughter to that house from the hospital cemented my feelings of being home. We became parents in that house. I lovingly stenciled the nursery walls and shopped for perfect curtains, wanting and maybe even needing to dig my nails in deeper and push our new family roots down, down, down. I worked hard to permeate our rooms with Bethany's presence, leaving her toys and books and little shoes in every room of our house, making it her home too. Then she started crawling and claimed it for her own, seizing every opportunity to remove all the contents from the kitchen cupboards and climbing right in to make herself at home. As it should be.
Before long, Connor and Lucy joined our family and claimed their stake in our home too. With every new addition, the house shrunk while at the same time, becoming even more of a home. What made it that way? Maybe it was the preschool art projects taped to the walls, maybe it was the pencil marks on the kitchen wall, documenting the growth of each child. Maybe it was the birthday parties and Easter basket searches, or the tumbles down the basement stairs and scraped knees on the driveway.
Our blood, sweat, and tears went into that house. We experienced some pretty extreme highs and lows while living there. Eventually we found ourselves needing to move, for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which was the impending arrival of another new addition. We had never intended to live there forever, and now we were truly outgrowing our humble abode. I felt uneasy leaving the place I had worked so hard to make my own true home, where I became a mom and watched my babies take their first steps. I was afraid I would never feel that again, that a house was my home.
We scrambled to find our next nest, in the hopes of being settled in before baby number four made her appearance. I stubbornly held tight to a certain list of requirements, a few deals fell through, and so it was that we finally spent the first night as a family in our new house just five days before we welcomed Mathilda into our lives. Chris had labored tirelessly to get this new house ready for us, while I packed and shuttled kids back and forth to school and myself to prenatal doctor appointments. Moving was different this time around. I was unable to help as much. There was a lot of stress involved, and a lot of pressure. We were overextended and had little people counting on us. Nonetheless, the excitement found me, and the new house started to feel like home.
Now we've been here for three and a half years and it is undoubtedly home. I wonder, will we stay here forever, or at least until the kids are all graduated? Our kids are bigger now and I feel the growing roots even stronger here, as friendships and traditions develop and grow. Yet the blueprint of my own upbringing influences me, and the pull of wanderlust is sometimes hard to resist. I grew up going, going, going. I hated it then, but at times find myself missing it now. What is best for our kids? Because that is the question that seems to matter most. But life is unpredictable. Opportunities and obstacles will help determine where we end up, guided ultimately by our choices and priorities.
The important thing though, is that we will be home wherever we are. When we are together, we are home.