Updated: Oct 31, 2018
About a week into our trip, I found myself dreaming and day-dreaming about my now former home in Minneapolis.
My dreams were of the new owner, his girlfriend, and their dog Fran moving into the home.
I found myself imagining the most mundane things: them putting cups into the kitchen cabinets, taking out the trash, carrying loads of laundry up the stairs. I dreamt of them rearranging furniture in the living room and then stepping back into the front entryway to examine if the set-up suited their needs.
I told a few of our hosts about my dreams, chuckling self-consciously about how random and commonplace the content of the dreams was. “I guess this is part of my process of letting go,” I explained, “my process of letting go of my home.”
When we conceptualized this trip, we decided to ask friends and friends-of-friends to open up their homes to us so we could experience places like a local. I didn’t comprehend fully what it would mean to stay in other people’s homes, particularly when we were on the heels of selling my beloved house in Minneapolis. (Fun fact: we started our road trip five minutes after closing on the home – while I signed the paperwork, Joel was waiting in the parking lot with our car packed and ready to go.)
It turns out our journey is very well designed for processing the decision to sell a first house and try to find our next. By staying with people around the country, in their homes, we have an invitation to explore the loss of our home and what moving on might feel like. Our quest for home is enriched by the experience of how so many others create home.
And how marvelous it is to step into homes of friends-of-friends and people we don’t yet know and get to gaze into their lives!
We’ve been in old houses with squeaky floors and original woodwork, as well as newer condos with modern fixtures and quiet floorboards.
We’ve been in rural homes and center-of-the-city homes; we’ve been off the beaten path and on it.
We’ve stayed in basement guest rooms, living rooms, and upstairs bedrooms that previously were occupied by now-grown children. We’ve been on firm mattresses, air mattresses, futons, and a convertible sofa.
We’ve contended with cats (and cat allergies) and slept in rooms next to toddlers.
We’ve stayed in cluttered spaces and minimalist spaces.
We’ve been surrounded by family photos in some of our guest rooms, and just a single piece of artwork in others.
We’ve cuddled under quilts and blankets that look homemade – perhaps made by a family member, perhaps holding a story we could learn during our stay.
In Iowa we stayed in a guest cottage on a rural property that the current owners restored from its previous occupants – cows – and now lovingly fill with friends and family. The kitchen window looked over their large garden and chicken coop. We ate amazing meals utilizing vegetables from their garden and afterwards sat by the fire pit as the sky darkened, discussing their experiences living rural. I want a home that is quiet, peaceful, and full of life like theirs.
A college friend I hadn’t seen in over a decade let us take over her home in Traverse City, MI. The walls and surfaces of the house were full of original artwork and perfectly curated trinkets. I loved the color story found throughout in textiles, rugs, and paint choices – her design aesthetic was the perfect blend of modern and vintage. It was an artist’s house. I want a home that moves and bends with the work of artists.
We stayed in an older building on the main street in Bethel, VT, which our hosts were converting into multiple businesses to serve the town. Their apartment was on the top floor and included a spirited cat and a large, St. Bernard dog that demanded lots of affection (gladly given). Our hosts worked long hours and poured so much of themselves into their home/businesses. I want a home that means something.
Everywhere we go, we are confronting the distance between where we came from and where we are now. Sometimes, I nearly topple over by the sheer magnitude of it all. Yet, at the same time, we are being welcomed so warmly into the lives and homes of people we are often just meeting, and that in itself feels like a wonder, grounds me.
Thus, the pull between what we are leaving behind and what we are trying to build is intense some days, yet softened by the generosity of our hosts. Every time another new person opens their door to welcome us in, I marvel at the great symbolism of their hospitality at a time in our lives when all we have to give is ourselves – no home, few possessions, a stack of maps pushing us forward. As it turns out, it is enough. We are enough.
And though I know this to be true, and acknowledge that processing saying goodbye to my home is still ongoing, some days pull me right back in the deep center of my feelings. I am learning that even when you choose to start over, there is still grieving. Some days, it manifests as a daydream about the people now living in my old house, rearranging furniture and stocking cupboards with everyday necessities. As I see their everyday unfold, I acknowledge that mine is changing.
Just the other day I texted my realtor, Tami, to ask a question about closing documents. During our chat, I joked that she would have to drive by my former house once and awhile and share updates with me.
The next day, I received a text from Tami. “No changes yet other than a bison skull by the front door,” she wrote underneath a photo of the house.
I zoomed in on the photo. My breath caught in my throat. Where once held my twig wreath now hung a bison skull.
I zoomed out.