The key turned in the lock, as it had a million times before. The curtains were closed, blocking out some of the humid July heat. I quickly opened them all, as they should be. The warm light filtered across the living room, through the small dining room. An area rug, a white cottage style entertainment center greeted us, the last little bits of our belongings remained. It was closing day, the day we would hand over our home, keys and leave with only memories of what used to be.
I wasn't sad, oddly enough. After all, it had been several months since we had actually lived in that house, and that state. It felt familiar, the mocha colored walls, honey colored floor, blue and cream colored curtains framing the window the way they always had. I was feeling rushed, we had only a few hours to remove the few things we had left behind, and get to our appointment.
The baby was with us, the older two back in California. It was weird to watch her toddle around in a house she'll never remember. She was 4 months old when we moved, too little to know or care. We sat down and ate our philly cheese steak sandwiches, a craving that took me back to the days of Saturday college football, in a college town. We would spend the morning dressed in our scarlet and grey, grab our subs and sit right in that very spot and watch the Buckeyes win, and they did, often.
I walked through the empty rooms, surprised at how very small they seemed. Middle's yellow and white room, the room we painted for her when she was 2 weeks old. Empty hangers filled the closet, and I laughed to myself. "Hookers" she likes to call them. My cream colored kitchen, that had seen many changes- from red, yellow, green, to neutral cream. The counters we had put in, my ugly brown oven that never cooked anything quite right. The mustard walls in our room stood out, a bright spot in the back of the house. I spent a few minutes wondering if the curtain rod could fit in my suitcase.... then dismissed the notion as quickly as it had arose.
I stepped into Oldielocks room, and realized we needed to hurry up. I glanced at her purple room and the border of hand painted flowers and fairies, speculating at how quickly the couple with no kids would cover them up. The shimmery, iridescent fabric that served as a fairytale valance would end up in the trash, after spending 5 years casting a magical ambiance for a little girl. I squelched the negative thoughts. It all had served it's purpose, and we had moved on.
I was wasting too much time, reminiscing and looking around. We had a deadline and it needed to be met. I shut Oldielock's closet door, and something caught my eye.
It was this.
A happy face drawn on the faceplate in her room.
I walked back to the living room and stood there. "I can't do this," I said, tears streaming down my face. The husband jumped up and silently with no words I walked him back to the room that our very own princess used to dance in, and showed him the light switch. His eyes welled up and we both stood there. Listening to echoes that only we could hear. Sounds of laughter, doggy toenails clicking down the hall, kids coloring and painting, late night talks. Sounds of heart aches and tears, little girls playing dress up and chasing fireflies. It all came back, like in a movie, of all that we had done, all that we had known.
We both blew out deep breaths of air, and composed ourselves. We gathered what remained, tossed what we needed too, and quickly finished the task of saying goodbye to what used to be our first home. I don't care that my kids took their first steps there, or it was the first home they knew. It didn't matter that it was the first of this or that. That seems so cliche to me. What mattered was that happy face on the switch plate. Because it was when we turned the key in the lock one last time, there was a remaining piece of us.... a happy face scrawled in childish crayon showing that absolutely, love had lived there.