See the happy young couple, expecting their first child, posing in front of their new home? This is us with my mom, when we moved into our house 12 years ago. I’m seven or eight months pregnant with Big Brother, and you can see I was never one of those “Oh, just me, but with a beach ball for a belly” kind of pregnant women. But anyway… this post is supposed to be about my home, not my body. Our 1930s bungalow was a fixer-upper. It lacked air conditioning or a dishwasher, but came with peeling wallpaper, cat-stained floors, and a small plastic figurine of a donkey pulling a cart in the front yard. Of course, the first thing we did was throw away the lawn ornament.
One evening, as I stood on the porch of my new house, a middle-aged woman walking a dachshund stopped to chat. “I’m so glad you got rid of the donkey cart!” she exclaimed, going on to explain that her dog would stop and growl in front of our yard each evening, refusing to go past the fake donkey.
A few years later, I was standing on the front porch again one evening — this time watching my two-year-old run in circles on the lawn. The lady with the little dog walked by again, did a double-take, and then came back to talk. “Is that… your son?” she stammered. “You were pregnant with him when you moved in, right? But you weren’t that pregnant, and look how big he is already!” We chatted for a bit about how time flies, then she walked away, shaking her head.
I came across a photo of the my husband and I standing in front of our house with my mother while sorting and boxing years of pictures as we packed up our belongings last weekend. We moved in as a couple of parents-to-be, and now we have expanded into a family of four, with two boys who are almost as big as me. Like the Donkey Cart lady, I am shaking my head as I look at this image. In my mind, we are still the new homeowners and new parents, although we are now one of the old residents on the block, the one that the young moms go to with questions about playgroups and schools.
Our family has outgrown our “starter” home, and because we like our neighborhood, we decided the best thing to do would be to renovate our current house. As everyone has warned me, the process of getting a remodel underway is a lot of work — planning, budgeting, meeting with an architect and designer, hiring a contractor, waiting for approvals, researching, packing, researching some more. For me, it’s been surprisingly emotional to sift through our belongings: the jeans that no longer fit, the wedding presents barely used, even the plastic IKEA child’s dishes that cost a total of $3, but remind me of quartered hot dogs and tiny cubes of watermelon.
This is the boy I was pregnant with in that first photo. He is not a baby, not even a toddler running around the lawn. He just began his second year of middle school.
I’ve been so absorbed in my own busy-ness that I didn’t realize how much the boys were affected by the remodel. I found a sheet of paper in Big Brother’s backpack. It was some kind of exercise they had done in class, listing off things they are excited for as school begins, goals, and things they are worried about. Among his worries: Home Remodeling. Maybe it’s because the backyard demolition began on the same day school started. We will have to move out and live with my mom for a while during the construction, and that means a lot of disruption to our usual routines. But I remind my kids (and myself) of how nice it’s going to be when it’s all finished and we have another bathroom and a modern kitchen where everything works.
This month, we broke ground on an addition to our house. It’s been a lot of work — budgeting, planning, researching, waiting for approvals, and finally, purging and packing. We will be moving in with my mom for a few months during the construction, which will be quite a change for our whole family. But I remind the kids (and myself) of how nice it’s going to be when we have another bedroom and bathroom and a modern kitchen with a dishwasher. We’ve even told the kids that maybe we can get a dog when it’s all finished.
The Donkey Cart Lady hasn’t walked her dog down our street in years. Maybe she moved away. Maybe the dachshund lived out its lifespan. A lot of dog years have gone by. Or perhaps we just got too busy to sit on the front porch, people watching and chatting with passersby. In an ideal world, we should have gotten a puppy when the boys were tots. Or before they were born. Dogs live to be 12 or 15 years old, right? Big Brother is already twelve and Little Brother isn’t too far behind. A puppy we adopt would likely live well into my sons’ college and even young adult years.
Someday, maybe I will walk my dog around the block and catch myself marveling at how the new neighbor who was seemingly pregnant just the other day is now chasing a child around the yard.