What No One Tells You When You Move Out of Your Childhood Home

It has brought up some broken childhood dreams.

Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

The past few months, I’ve been going through an interesting transition, to say the least. At the beginning of this seemingly endless pandemic, my mom approached my older brother and me and told us since we were all in quarantine, we might as well be productive.

So, we got a dumpster and purged the shit out of our house.

We got rid of everything around our house we've been telling each other for years we’ve been wanting to get rid of. Anything that couldn’t be donated was dramatically thrown off our back porch into the giant rusty pit we rented for a few weeks. Looking back over a year later, that was just the first step of many we would take to eventually sell our family home.

Growing up, I had the illusion my parents were never going to separate or get a divorce. This seems like a common belief many kids have, regardless of how chaotic or toxic their parents’ relationship may be. But that illusion instantly disintegrated when I was nine, and my father sat down next to me on the couch, turned off the TV, and told me he was leaving. He didn’t say why he was leaving, all he said was he was staying “with a friend”.

I learned years later this “friend” was the woman he was having an affair with. That’s a long story for another day. But we sat there with my mom while I cried and begged him to stay, that I didn’t want to have divorced parents. But instead, he left with his guns blazing and said:

“Well, I should get going before you guys continue to beat me up, so I’ll see ya.”

I don’t have a relationship with my biological father to this day. Frankly, I don’t care to or want to (and that isn’t any stranger on the internet’s place to judge). As it turns out, he had already left once before for nine months, and I didn’t even notice. So that goes to show how absent he truly was even when he was around.

Unfortunately, our house all these years is still legally tied to him. His name is on the deed with my mom’s. But we continued to live on. My mom learned how to do everything on her own and become a complete badass doing so.

Over this past decade, as a single mom, she did the following:

  • Doubled her credit score.
  • Went back to school at 50 years old to become a medical assistant.
  • Renovated nearly half our house including the entire kitchen, two bathrooms, the doors, and windows (she re-tiled our bathroom one afternoon by herself).
  • Continued to be a compassionate, present, and rational mom to my brother and me.

As for my brother, he went to college on tons of scholarships for mathematics. Now, he’s attending graduate school for accounting. Meanwhile, I’m an undergrad student on scholarships studying a double major while trying to make writing a part-time income.

We’re happy. We didn’t become a complete family until he left the equation.

My family bought our house in July of 1999. For context, I was born in August 1999, so this literally is the only house I’ve ever lived in. This is the house my friends and past boyfriends have been brought back to. Every one of my first day of school pictures has been taken in front of the same door. I can’t help but walk into every room now without thousands of memories flooding through my head of everything from my childhood.

My brother (2011) and I (2018) with pictures of us the morning of our high school graduations taken in the same spot of our living room.

The only move I’ve made in my life is off to college, which I’ve never counted as being a “full” move because you always have your family to go back to on breaks. It’s rather a watered-down trial run of the real world.

Last summer during the pandemic, I spent every afternoon in my family’s kidney-shaped pool to feel like I was on a “real vacation”.

This is the first time in my life where there’s been a real estate agent, bidding, and hours of scrolling through Zillow involved. Moving out of your childhood home is hard enough as it is since you’re saying goodbye to a vital chapter of your life, but it only got harder (and weirder) when I read the letter of interest from the family that would be buying our property.

I came home for a weekend from college, mainly just to soak up the last moments in the place I’ve lived for almost 22 years, and my mom described to me the buyers’ were “a nice couple with three kids”. Believe it or not, I had no idea it was custom to write a letter to the owner of a house if you’re particularly interested in buying it. Again, I’ve never moved houses, so this is all new to me.

But, I read them all, and even putting aside the fact I knew before who my mom picked to fill our house with tons of love to come, I kept coming back to their letter specifically.

The buyers are a married couple renting out a tiny apartment for them and their three young children. They’ve been house hunting since around the time my family was filling up our dumpster. They talked about how seeing our house in person was their sign they found their “forever home”.

Our house is the one they want to see their children grow up in. Our house is the one they want to host graduation and birthday parties in. Our house is the one they saw themselves growing old in and spending many years in.

It all seemed surreal. Everything they were describing felt eerily similar to what my mom had imagined in 1999 when she was in the same position. They wanted a home they were going to spend the rest of their lives in, one for grandchildren to visit decades down the line.

What they want and see in our house was something my mom envisioned (and even I envisioned) when I was young. I always went to my grandmother’s house and got to see the bedroom my father grew up in, so I wanted the same for my future children. But that dream ended as soon as my parents' divorce case settled with their lawyers informing them they needed to sell our house when I graduate high school. Ultimately, I still got to grow up in the same house and my family wasn’t forced to abruptly move. But, even though we’ve postponed selling, fate decided years ago that our house wouldn’t be ours forever.

Strangely, there’s going to come a day we’re going to do a last walk around each room, leave, and never come back. From that point onward, our house will cultivate a new purpose for another family since ours has crumbled.

But there is a bright side. Knowing how excited and appreciative the buyers are to be getting a house where their children have their own rooms and a backyard and pool to play in makes it easier to cope. It may not have been what I imagined years ago, but it’s a chance for some new beginnings on both ends.

Moving out isn’t going to change or take away the strength and independence my family has worked years to achieve. If anything, it will only make things better. Once the deed of the house is passed over, we no longer have legal ties with my biological father. The last thing our manipulator has held over our head all these years will cease to exist, and the three of us can move on with our lives.

I’ll take the memories from my childhood home with me whether my family lives there or not. As for buying a new house ourselves, we will be starting fresh as the family we were meant to be all along, and continue to grow into something even better than before.

College Junior in Media Communications. True Crime Fan (but that’s not all I write about).

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