It was our first home together, the place whose doors we first danced through after our honeymoon on Maui. I learned how to cook food that extended beyond the frozen food aisle at Trader Joe’s in her kitchen, and in her bathroom I giggled with joy and shock at two lines on a pregnancy test.
My husband and I became us in that house. I, for instance, came to realize how much he loves ketchup. And he (for instance) came to realize how I much refuse to let one drop of said ketchup go to waste before opening a new bottle.
“But there’s one tablespoon of ketchup left!” he’d exclaim, eager for a sparkly new bottle of Heinz 57.
“Exactly, honey: reduce, reuse, recycle. And we’re not recycling that bottle until it’s all squeezed out.”
If only ketchup remained our greatest worry.
In that place we both realized we don’t like to be wrong. We don’t necessarily like to say, “I’m sorry,” and we sure don’t like to admit that marriage can be hard work. But we also realized how much we desire the best for the other person – how we want to be the best team we can be, even if we disagree and don’t see eye to eye and find that sleeping on the couch sometimes is the best option after a night’s fight.
I think that’s why our abrupt move, a year and a half into marriage, slayed me.
We did what we had to do, moving closer to my husband’s work, closer to our church, closer to those with whom we were in community. With the birth of our son only a few months’ away, we began to think differently: as Real Live Parents who think with child in mind. We needed to save money, so for the time being, we’d rent instead of own. We’d go down to one car. We’d rely on our more-than-able bodies, on walking and biking and public transportation instead.
It felt so good, so healthy, so us in theory – which is probably why the overwhelming sense of loss surprised me.
When we moved to the tiny house in San Francisco, I mourned our condo, everyday. I missed the neighbors we’d come to love. I missed the familiarity of the walking paths I knew by heart, and I missed the spacious layout, the cupboards with room to spare. I missed sipping my coffee on the back patio, and I missed bursts of wind-filled sunshine in the morning instead of a thick layer of coastal fog.
I missed it all.
And it felt so lame – it was just a house, after all, a temporary place we’d called home.
But when home is uprooted, when we pack up and sift through and can’t find the right fit of a place for the stuff that fills our space, we find ourselves longing for home. We long for the familiar, for a place that feels ours, for something that doesn’t feel so abruptly unknown all the time.
Here’s the truth: when loss interrupts my world, I tend to run far from it. I try and avoid it at all costs. But when loss is so physical and guttural and unavoidably present in front of us, we can’t help but mourn and wail for the comfort of what was.
And that, I’m learning, is okay. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s healthy. Because sometimes, when all is said and done, I come to remember that God still exists whether or not I believe he’s present, in both the joy and the pain. There his more-than-gracious self remains, even when loss and tears and disruption come my way.
Eventually, the pain subsides. Eventually, the hurt isn’t quite so big, and when it comes to houses at least, the new place becomes comfortably threadbare and worn around the edges like the old place. We begin to get to know our neighbors and they begin to know us.
The cycle of home begins again.
Cara Meredith is a writer and speaker from the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Co-host of the Shalom Book Club podcast and a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, she is currently writing her first book about her journey into seeing color (issues of racial reconciliation). She's also written for For Every Mom, Scary Mommy, Books & Culture, Englewood Review of Books, For Her and Gifted for Leadership. She is passionate about racial justice and reconciliation, the great outdoors and dinner around the table with people she loves. She holds a Masters of Theology (Fuller Seminary), and can be found on her blog, Facebook or Twitter.