Well, I guess it’s official. She’s never moving back home now…
That’s a little bit of inside humor between my wife Kellie and me. She used to mock me mercilessly when I whined about our daughters moving out. I always joked that we couldn’t take down their beds because, you know, they might still move back at some point.
(Yet Kellie and I will mark 30 years of marriage in September despite my sense of humor…and people say there’s no such thing as miracles…)
See, our youngest daughter, Olivia moved out two years ago into a tiny apartment with her very significant other, Tyler and their puppy Joker, a goofy, exuberant, affectionate pittie mix.
Then, they bought their first house together a couple months ago.
The first move was very hard on my psyche. However, the second move was much easier.
As I’ve written before, I had a bumpy “Dad Transition” as both of our daughters turned the corner toward Young Adulthood.
Strangely, I wasn’t as affected when Emma moved in with Jake, her husband-to-be, — maybe because Olivia still lived at home.
But when they were both gone? That was like a ball-peen hammer to the back of the head.
Now though, not so much, thanks to the comforting balm of Time.
Sure, I still get a bit misty-eyed thinking of our daughters as babies, toddlers, adolescents and (believe it or not) even teens. I truly loved watching them grow and helping to shape their lives in whatever little ways I could.
However, now I see different things through my misty eyes:
- A still-small house that suddenly has enough room again for Kellie, our two small dogs and me;
- The office I secretly coveted for 20 years, carved from Olivia’s old bedroom, filled with my collection of hundreds of books;
- Emma’s old room transformed into the crafting nook Kellie likewise dreamed of, overflowing with examples of her talent and creativity;
- The freedom (and slightly improved finances) to enjoy dinner out more often, accept more invitations for long weekends away with friends and even take impromptu vacations.
Those things are all good. Yet, they pale – I mean, absolutely disappear into the wispy vapor of nothingness – compared to the things that are truly important:
- A wonderful husband for Emma (and son-in-law for us), now three years into a strong marriage;
- A charming, talented life-partner for Olivia (and, we think, a future son-in-law for us);
- And the most beautiful and very-nearly-perfect granddaughter ever, in Riley Jean.
Sure, I miss my girls. But joyous pride more than compensates for melancholy memories.
That’s where Olivia’s and Tyler’s new house comes in.
Home ownership means many things, not least of which is the financial, legal and contractual responsibility that comes with property ownership. The work (and the money) to buy; the work (and the money) to maintain; the work (and the money) to improve. The work. And the money.
Olivia’s and Tyler’s new digs are quaint and cozy – code for “on the small side.” Trust me, Kellie and I have lived “on the small side” for 23 years, so I know of whence I speak.
It’s about 40 feet from the Fox River in Montgomery. A beautiful park and walking path beckon from across the river. Both are wonderful amenities to current owners and enticing selling points to future buyers.
(They’re also the cause for significant Dad anxiety every time it rains and the river rises, but hey, that’s why God – or Satan — invented insurance…)
It’s a bit of a fixer upper. More so, I think than they realized, but that’s what family and friends are for. (Tyler’s parents, and Kellie and I donated some “Parent Equity,” helping them move, paint, fix some things, etc. )
Yet, they couldn’t be happier, and for good reason.
Buying a house together means so much more than just co-signing a mortgage.
It’s a solid symbol of something as ethereal as “Love.”
What better picture of a hopeful future, what more positive affirmation of long-term commitment is there for a young couple than investing in their first house?
Likewise, it is a small but meaningful proof of our own achievement as parents.
Their house says that we, Olivia’s and Tyler’s parents (and Emma’s and Jake’s, too) raised kids with good heads on their shoulders and big hearts in their chests. Young people willing to work today, and dream of a tomorrow, together.
Yet, simply buying a house is not the end-all, be-all.
As a young newspaper reporter, I learned that words that seem synonymous often aren’t.
For example, a “house” is not a “home.”
A “house” is a collection of building materials assembled to create a shelter.
A “home” is what one makes of a house.
Turning a house into a home is a lifetime project.
Kellie and I bought a tiny house after seven years in apartments, a young couple with a toddler, an infant and a small dog.
We scraped and scrapped. Borrowed and begged. Worked even harder when needed and reluctantly accepted help when our bills outpaced our pride.
In the process we made it a home.
We filled it with love and laughter. Made it a place of comfort and security. Created a sanctuary for their injured/confused/angry spirits.
None of it was easy. All of it was worth the struggle.
We created a place defined not so much by four walls as by two hearts.
A place where our children now feel welcome to return as adults and know that they will be supported and cherished when they do.
Now our nest is completely empty save the two dogs. We look forward to new adventures with our family in our home.
And we hope and pray that our daughters and their families find the same joy in theirs.