by Melissa Wenzel
My favorite key is no longer on my key chain. I didn’t even get to hang onto it as a keepsake. Interchangeable, the keys on my key ring accompany me through life; evidence of a life lived – homes occupied, offices worked in and cars come and gone. They speak to who I am and how far I’ve come. New keys replace old keys; old keys get tossed aside, yet remain the keeper of information of a past era. My sentimental side keeps my favorite ones tucked away in a drawer in my dresser.
I got my favorite key four years ago on a clear, spring afternoon. My husband and I were handed an envelope containing two identical keys inside – house keys. After years of saving for a down payment and paying off college debt, we were finally homeowners; on our way to achieving the American Dream. Upon entering our lovely, modest abode that day, I did cartwheels in the family room before collapsing on the floor, snow angel-style, soaking in the sweet smells of new carpet and fresh paint. We were home.
Four years of living in a house seems so short, but it was more than enough time to fall in love with it.
Last year, with a sour economy pounding on our door, my husband and I decided to sell our house. It was a decision wrought with heartache. I brought my babies home to that house, started my business in that house and fostered tender memories there. The house was far from perfect, but it was ours.
I remember the day the For Sale sign arrived. My three year old twins and I were playing in the backyard on a spring morning when we heard a truck pull up out front. Obsessed with anything with wheels, the boys insisted we go check out “the big truck outside.” We skipped through the house and before I reached to unlock the front door, I peeked through the window and gasped. A strange man was in our front yard nailing the splintery sign into the ground. It was menacing and obtrusive and I didn’t want the boys to see it. We hadn’t even signed the paperwork and yet there it was, staring at me ominous and cold. The sign made me feel like a piece of my identity was slipping away. Experts told us to view this as a “fiscal exercise” and selling it was our decision, but it didn’t make the process any less painful. Soon, strangers would begin traipsing through our house, criticizing and critiquing, visualizing their furnishings in our home.
Our house officially went on the market a few weeks later. Each time a realtor called for an appointment, I loaded up the boys and our dog into the car and took them to the park while strangers came to look at our house. I often imagined what potential buyers would comment on during their tour through our home. Could they smell the banana bread I baked earlier that morning? Would they notice we had two sets of everything– two potties, two racecar beds, two bikes? Would they even care? I questioned how presentable the house was. Did I remember to wipe down the shower doors? Were the closets tidy? What would they think of the spotty baseboards, dented from the boys’ dump truck derbies? Or the backyard we had yet to finish. Would they appreciate my unique kitchen with speckled forest green countertops and maple cabinets? And the boys’ room – my favorite room in the house. Surely they couldn’t possibly appreciate the serenity of that room, complete with a beautiful ocean mural my husband had painted for them before they were born.
After just a few days on the market, our realtor was flooded with attractive offers and we began planning our move. Packing was tedious, especially with the Arizona summer suppressing our energy. A mere three weeks later, we were done. I scrubbed my kitchen one last time and my husband and I walked through the house together. Its walls were bare, but spoke to me, reminding me of a happy life lived within them.
I recalled our first few months in the house. We hadn’t even unpacked all of the moving boxes before we began filling it with family. We brought our cocker spaniel puppy home just eight months before bringing our fragile preemies home from the hospital. I remembered easing myself down in my new rocking chair on the day of their homecoming, overwhelmed with happiness of being home with our new family.
I continued reminiscing as I walked through each room, recalling marathon feeding sessions, splish-splashy bath times and hours of quiet story time. The sounds of raucous play dates permeated the walls, along with joyous cookie parties, bridal showers, holiday celebrations and brunches with friends. I closed my eyes, visualizing Saturday night Netflix date nights, baking cookies with the boys and art projects at the kitchen table. Taking a deep breath, I could smell the faint blend of Macintosh apple candles and finger-paints. Our house was our sanctuary, filled with love.
Returning to the kitchen, I took my house key off of my keychain and laid it down for its new owners.
Before leaving, I impulsively scribbled a note for the new owners on a paper towel and left it on the counter.
We hope you love your new home as much as we did. Sincerely, Dan and Melissa
My husband and I walked out the front door together, hand in hand. We didn’t look back, staring forward into a future unknown.