Sitting in our dark paneled living room (think: 1970’s plywood and not English Hunting Lodge), a room I’ve spent a lot of time in over the last 4 years, the corner to my right is calling for my attention. It’s been emptied of the desk and chair that normally fill it in order to make room for a Christmas tree. And not just any Christmas tree, mind you, but our last Christmas tree in Oklahoma.
There are other corners in the house which are decidedly NOT empty – most are now filled with boxes. Some hold books, some hold knick-knacks, decorations, pictures – all the tiny things that are a part of our lives, but not a daily part, so they’re up for early boxing. The wall behind our kitchen table stares at me with screw-hole eyes, a blank void where the chalkboard hung. It was where we made lists, wrote encouragement, proclaimed birthday congratulations, where our kids scrawled little notes and tiny pictures. It’s not making the trip and has been moved to a new wall with a new family in town.
Four and one-half years, that’s how long we’ve called this house home. It was the one rental house my wife found which she liked enough to even consider, the one with the big oak tree out front and the “Rapunzel” window in the master bath. It’s a hodgepodge of Tudor styling, mid-70’s gaudy, and multiple cosmetic makeovers. We attempted to purchase it from our landlord numerous times, but I guess that worked out alright in the end. It’s been a safe haven for us, and looking back (hindsight is always so dang easy to see through) maybe we were never meant to own it. Maybe we were just meant to borrow it, to sojourn in it for a bit.
Sojourn: To dwell for a time; to dwell or live in a place as a temporary resident or as a stranger, not considering the place as a permanent habitation; to delay; to tarry.
My wife was on board with the idea early on, chronicling our time here through her small remodeling projects (which vastly improved the style and value of this house, I might add) on her @Sojournliving Instagram. She set out to make this place a home for our family, a retreat from the wind and storms of Oklahoma and of life, to be a familiar and warm and inviting place for our family, neighbors, friends.
I think she succeeded.
There is a lot of stuff we brought with us to this house, and quite a bit of it won’t make the journey back to NC.
And I’m not just talking about furniture and decor.
We’re not the people we were when we got here. In some ways, those folks seem like familiar strangers, someone you see and have that feeling you once knew, but you’re not quite sure from where. We’re leaving them here, those ghosts of the past.
We are also leaving some innocence behind, both ours and our kids. It’s been a hard 5 years for our family. There has been joy in it, healing in it, but also a good bit of struggle, as the gray in my beard and the wrinkles around my eyes can attest. The hard times we all face are part of what makes us who we are, for good or ill, and we’ve all faced some in this house. I hate that my kids have had to deal with the struggles so early in life, I hate the tears that have been shed in these walls, and yet I’m grateful we were able to walk through these things together, as a family.
In addition to the boxes and the furniture, there are some really sweet memories which will make the journey with us. Even now, as I write, I can see my daughter standing in the foyer in her Christmas PJ’s, eyes full of joy when she finally got the dog she’d been hoping years for. I can see our living room full of new-to-us faces who would become dear friends as we shared meals, stories, struggles and joys together. I can see my son staggering into the mostly-dark living room, sniffing his stinky blankets, and climbing in the big chair beside me in the early morning hours of a run-of-the-mill weekday.
I can see my kids playing outside, watching them push one another on the swing in our tree, climbing into the back of my truck, and petting the neighbor’s cat (and hearing “No, we can’t get a cat” from me). I can see my wife digging holes in front of the big picture window to plant Hydrangeas and Roses and anything else we hoped would grow in the red OK dirt. Much more than plants grew in this place – hope, love, and faith all began to sprout shoots and try to take root again, not the same as before, yet still new life springing up even in the hard, dry soil. There has been growth in areas I didn’t think could ever be tilled again.
In a few weeks the moving truck will be packed to the ceiling with all our material possessions, all tucked away in boxes labeled to let us know what each one holds. But the most precious cargo of all will be inside our white mini van: my wife and kids. And tucked inside each of those minds will be the memories of all the people we’ve come to know and love, of all the time we’ve spent here, of the good and the bad, the sorrows and the joys.
We will carry those with us wherever we go…no boxes necessary.