Moving On

After Richard died and left our house to me in his will, many people assumed that I would be selling it.  As one friend put it, “It will be easier for you to move on with your life if you’re not still in this place.”

I didn’t want to give up our house.  Yes, it was too big for just me.  Yes, it was a lot to maintain on my own.  Yes, every corner and crook held a memory of our time together there.  But I didn’t want to give up my house.  One blazing hot July afternoon, I came home to an HVAC unit that had been struck by lightning, a green pool, and a leak in the basement.  I stomped around cussing and pouring chemicals and mopping and panicking.  I didn’t want to let myself start crying because I wasn’t sure how I would stop.  I remember glaring up at the brick face of the house as I turned the hose on and shaking my fist at it.  To be so huge, it was hugely empty–just me and three dachshunds.  That night, as I watched the Atlanta news and ate my dinner all alone in the den, the anchor introduced a story about kids who needed to be adopted.  Three siblings who hoped to stay together.  It’s hard to find a house with that much empty space–but I had one.  A part of my wretched heart opened up at that story because it dawned on me that maybe the house would give me options down the road that I wouldn’t have otherwise.  Like any gift, my house held possibilities.


One of the dearest things about Richard’s gift to me is that he knew how much owning a home meant to me.  He had grown up with a home–his parents lived in the same house from the time he was in elementary school until after he was out of college.  He loved the little yellow house so much that he was furious when the next owners cut down “his” azaleas.  My childhood memories were scattered over several places–the trailer in Greenville, the brown house in Hollonville, the old plantation house, the tin-roofed house on the Circle.  By the time I was an adult, neither my mom nor my dad lived in a place where I had ever had a room of my own.  I didn’t have a childhood home to go back to.  Fartbuster and I had bought a house together, but it never felt like a place to put down roots.  I didn’t know any of my neighbors there…or my husband, for that matter.  When we divorced, I felt like I was being forced into the decision to sell.  I rented two more places on my own before Richard and I bought our house.  After he left it to me, I had a place I would never have to leave unless it was my choice.  So I chose to stay.

Within five years, all the bedrooms were full with three siblings.  Not those sweet kids from the evening news–my kids.  Yesterday, two of them and I were playing in the backyard when I witnessed something that taught me a new lesson about moving on.

The very idea of “moving on” is an illusion.  We put together our lives not by moving away from the past, but by integrating the past into the present and the future, regardless of where we might be.

bluebirdI’ve told the story before about the bluebird who appeared at our backyard wedding (A Tuesday Kind of Miracle).  Well, yesterday, as I sat in the sun and watched Vivi and Carlos playing in her wagon, a pair of bluebirds flitted out of the forsythia bushes on the far side of  the yard.  I thought I was seeing things.  One perched on the fence down by the river–in the exact spot where the wedding bluebird had sat almost nine years ago.  As I was marveling at the beauty of the bluebird–and the memory I associate with them–Carlos caught my eye and chirped, “Hello, Mommy!”  Time collapsed in my backyard as my son stood in the same place Richard and I had stood to say our vows, and called me by my new name.  Mommy.

If I had sold this house and moved in to a new place, I would have missed that moment.  I would have missed seeing my Now blend so seamlessly with my Then.  As I sat there being happy, it dawned on me that that is what HOME is–being somewhere long enough that stories have time to come back around.

14 thoughts on “Moving On

  1. Stephanie

    Thanks for the really sweet story this morning, Ashley. You are so right. I really appreciate your take on “moving on.” It is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. We should have lunch one day, only I’m afraid if we got started, it might turn into lunch, dinner, midnight snacks….nevertheless, I’d love to plan it sometime!

  2. Tara @ I Might Need a Nap

    TEARS. You know how I love the Tuesday story. I go back and visit it from time to time. And now this. Beautiful. I love seeing life through your eyes. Years ago at one of the family get togethers, my uncle was commenting that they had lived in that house for so many years, and it was the longest they’d ever lived anywhere, that it might be time to move again. (They used to move every four years or so, I think.) Daddy shook his head and told me later that Blackberry Flats was just starting to feel like home to him, and they’d lived there about twenty years. I LOVE your definition of home. I’d hang that on my wall. Beautiful. <3

      1. Tara @ I Might Need a Nap

        It got its name when a family friend brought us over some blackberries that were beyond the point of eating. Bless her. This was probably thirty-five years ago. After she left, Mama had me tote the blackberries out to the “high grass,” which is where we took scraps and brush and stuff like that–toward the back part of the property. As it turned out, those blackberries loved being in that soil and they took off. After years of Daddy fighting them by burning the prickly briars off, he and the bushes reaches a compromise–he let them have the fence line. There are still some there today. Thus the name Blackberry Flats was born. Yes. Your home needs a name. Your heart will tell you what it is.

      2. Tara @ I Might Need a Nap

        Oh we had slop too. If we had dogs out there, they’d often partake of that. I can remember shaking my head when we had to dump out some old vegetable soup and the cats ate it. And we fed them REAL cat food, so I don’t even know. Maybe they were just trying to get their RDA of veggies?

  3. Beth Holmes

    Wonderful story! I am so lucky to have spent just a little time in your wonderful house/home. I love the idea that moving on includes integrating your past with your present. I’d never thought about it that way at all. I moved around growing up and for most of my married life so I’ve never had an attachment really to a house. I’ve had ones I liked more than others but no long term connection. I’d always been jealous a bit of those people who’d gotten to live in one place for most of their lives. Looks like we are settled here in RI in our lovely little house, and we just broke my record of most time lived in one place/house which had formerly been set in Athens at 6,5 years. We’ve been here almost 7 years now. I wonder what memories will come around again here? On the other hand I’ll always have those memories that I’ve “left behind” in other places and in other houses.

  4. Lisa in Athens

    Now I wonder if this house I live in has been so starved for attention that it’s acting out to get it. It and I will come to a happy compromise soon, I think. In the spring, when there’s a outdoor party and friends fill the deck and yard.
    Y’all come.

  5. Terri

    The part about not having a room of your own in your parents’ home rings true for me. Mom and Dad moved to CO right as I was going into college … I did have a room in that house, and while it did feel like home to me, my room was the smallest and had the worst location since I was only home for 3 months during summers and one month at Christmas. Years later, when they remodeled and expanded the kitchen, my room became the new dining room. I have to admit to feeling a bit displaced. 🙂

    Speaking of bluebirds, I saw a little family of them playing in my front yard yesterday and thought of you. I watched them for a while, then when I finally decided to get my camera they scattered.

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