Updated: Jan 20, 2022
8 years ago this weekend I made the trip to Alaska to do my student teaching and start our Alaska life chapter. But as many times as we’ve heard the “I moved to Alaska and never looked back” story, that wasn’t the case for us. We did a whole lot of looking back. (We even moved back temporarily.) Home was on the East Coast. Home was where our family was. To me, right up until this week, home has been the house I grew up in. While we always thought we might end up back there, Alaska has worked its way into our bones, and with each year marker that passes, and each baby that makes our house feel a little smaller, it feels more and more like we belong here.
Home has always been a big word for us, probably because we were both fortunate to come from really good ones. Happy memories of growing up in our homes are what drive us to try and create our own version of those memories for our kids. I think deep down, all of the looking back and questioning over the years, stems from what kind of a home we want so badly to build for our family.
Our emotions are all over the place as my parents go through the process of selling the house my siblings and I grew up in–it’s been a roller coaster, even from a distance. Should we buy it? Should we move back? Should we try to recreate the childhood I had– in the beautiful old farmhouse with the big backyard, rustic barn, and small, tight knit community– for our own children?
My childhood home was a place filled with so much more than I can put into words. Where my mom fought and beat breast cancer. Three times. Where my nana passed away. Where my dad recovered from heart surgery. Where we brought two out of our own three babies home from the hospital. Sibling love, (and torment,) sleepovers, proms, graduations, clumsy puppies grown into slow, old dogs, walks up the road, meals cooked, blankets crocheted, campfires, family reunions, preparations for weddings and babies, celebrations and heartaches, tears of loss, so many goodbyes said, so many new chapters begun. Looking back at the 33 years I called that house home, it’s hard to separate the pulse that made it a home from the house itself.
And while I can hear my dad’s matter of fact, unemotional, “Never fall in love with a car or a house,” wisdom echoing in the back of my mind, (and through the phone on FaceTime) it’s hard not to love a place that represents so much of who I am.
Brendan and I have spent the last 8 years building our life together, intentionally taking the road less traveled, but making way more stops along the way than we ever would have planned. Asher has lived in 4 different houses in his 5 years on this Earth, Harper in 2 out of her 3. I’ve spent a lot of energy worrying about my kids not being in their “forever” home from the get go. I’ve always wanted to give them what my parents gave me.
But struggling with letting go of a house that feels like such a big part of me, and one that I thought for sure was a permanent fixture in my life, has been strangely therapeutic–liberating even. Liberating not only in the sense that I feel totally untethered, but in the deeper realization that home really doesn’t have to be in any one, particular place, and it also doesn’t have to be permanent. Letting go of the home I grew up in is allowing me to feel more at home where I am, and that’s a gift I definitely didn’t see coming.
Even though I question it from time to time, (It’s hard not to when our family is 4,000 miles away,) home is here, right where we are. I don’t need to spend so much energy worrying about what we’ll do when we outgrow this house, because we’ll find ourselves at home in another one. And maybe someday our kids will remember 4-wheeler rides on the beach, wiffle ball games in the road, flying on bush planes, and the excitement of weekly produce boxes…and hopefully they’ll feel a familiar sense of home.
So in true KonMari fashion: Thank you, 350 North Main, and goodbye. Thank you for showing me it is not only possible, but important, to have both roots and wings. May you provide your new family with the same strength, happiness, and memories you gave to us.
(And thanks, Mom and Dad, for the DMB tickets. Because if I can’t feel at home in our house this summer, SPAC will undoubtedly fill the void.)
(Photos courtesy of my little sister, who did a way more hip ode to the homestead via her Insta-story)