ambivalence

For a long time, even through my (English, lest the irony be lost) MA, I had the definition of ambivalence wrong. Has that ever happened to you with a word? Anyway, I know what it means now. I mean, I really really do.

So, after I posted earlier about putting the house on the market, we went to check out two apartments, and we sort of fell apart. Because here’s the thing: we don’t want to sell our house. We don’t want to leave this place.

And we sort of want to leave it.

And we don’t want to live in some crumby beige apartment.

And we want to leave the bathroom where we lost two of our children.

And we never want to. And we can’t fathom not coming home to the home where we brought Bram home. And this is the only place we’ll ever know Saul. And Hades died here. And both of my aunts and cousins and my mom helped us paint this house, including the trim on the steps. And we tried and failed to become gardeners here. And paced at all hours of the day with two newborns. And fought. And made love. And did countless inseminations. Including our first. And the last one the day before my dad died. I was standing in the bathroom when we got that call. And Bram first rolled over for the first time in the very room I’m typing this in. And we had summers worth of Summer Supper Clubs in the backyard, our house and grounds full of our friends. Of food and laughter and games. We had a fundraiser cakewalk here on my 31st birthday. We picked baby names and brought home Iris. We became an us here. A family.

Friends came here with broken hearts. With good news. With bottles of champagne and bags of groceries and pots of soup. J built a bookshelf. I sang “Iowa” to Emmett in the kitchen the night before we lost her. I read Harry Potter to J’s belly every night. I sang “Your Song.” Every night for over a year, first to a baby I could only feel through my wife’s skin and then to my child in my arms. Wrapped against me. Tom Waits’ “Time.” Every night. Most nights still. I worried we wouldn’t make it. I was sure we would make it.

This is my home. This is the most home home I’ve ever known and I am in love with it. With the green of Bram’s room’s walls and the friends who painted them while I rested in a hotel with morning sickness and the stomach flu weeks away from a loss that would change my life.

With the 1920s heat grates and the 1920s light fixtures. With the doors that never quite work right no matter what we do. With the floor we laid when J was 37 weeks pregnant. With the dogwood tree that’s dying in the backyard because of last year’s dry summer. With the curly willow, under which J buried Love Child’s yolk sac because we missed her body coming out, despite our obsessive watching. With the trim my cousins painted and the windows that make it impossible to rearrange furniture and the orange part of the cabinet that our friend Beth absentmindedly and accidentally painted.

This is our home. I’ve never had this kind of history with a house, and I don’t want to leave.

But here’s where we find ourselves. And I’m open to advice. Like, please make this decision for us. Please. Because like so many other choices, it is torturing me. And lately, even when I’m sure of a choice, I’m likely wrong. I was sure Love Child would be fine. I cannot be trusted. So here it is. By all means, solve it.

  • The market in our state is actually really great right now.
  • Houses at our price point in our neighborhood are going under contract in two to four weeks. Which is crazy. And which may not last until spring.
  • If our house sells by the end of summer, we could get a place with a one-year lease. Otherwise, if we sell before we leave the town, we’ll have to find a month-to-month.
  • We can’t afford to pay our mortgage here and rent wherever we move. At least not for more than a month or two. So if the market turns again…
  • We can’t leave too early. So if I find a job or even a postdoc, we can’t leave until a month before I start work because we can’t go without a paycheck for long. So if we wait to put the house on the market until, say, March, and it sells in May, where would we go until the end of July?

So there it is. Staying is a gamble. It pays off if we sell when we want to sell, but otherwise… And there are inviting things about leaving the house. Being free of yard work for a year. Getting to let go of this place gradually, one year our home, the next our town. Not being haunted by the memories that ache more than anything else.

But trading the storm grey walls of our bathroom, the subway tile, the kitchen cabinet glass from an old local department store for beige walls and beige floors and suburbia? I mean, it would be one thing if we could afford to be downtown, you know? Somewhere fabulous for our last year? But unless we’re willing to lose a lot of space, which means no longer being eligible for foster care or adoption…

Ambivalence. I know what it means.

Seriously, tell us what to do.

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8 thoughts on “ambivalence

  1. I wish I could help make this decision for you. What I can say is that this post made me cry and that what I can provide is a whole lot of love, support and warm thoughts that whatever decision you end up making will work out. You’re in my heart!

  2. Can you rent it out if it doesn’t sell? You are in a place with a good rental market, yes? I would keep it. Don’t leave preemptively and cause the heartache twice. You are going to still have to say goodbye to your city one day, with all the sadness that comes with that–don’t make yourself do it twice. Leaving because you have to leave is sad. Leaving because you might have to leave is sad in the moment, and then again when you actually do. Also, your house is so beautiful.

  3. although the walls of that are where things happened, the memories are in your heart, that is truly where “home” is. I struggled with this same issue but came to realize the things that really matter the most can go anywhere we go because we hold them in our heart!!!!

  4. Yuck. That’s what comes to mind. Yuck. I have no advice. None. Because it just sucks what you have to figure out. But here is what I know. Everything you have had to deal with (and there has been a lot!) you have gotten through with grace and strength and raw, honest courage. You have gotten through as a family and you have gotten through with love. So, there is no doubt in my mind that whatever may come, you will get through it in the same way you have gotten through the rest of it. Let there be some comfort in that. You have been tested. Boy, have you been tested and you seem to always emerge on the other side as a stronger family than you were before. There will be no difference in this case. No matter what you decide to do. Perhaps you might allow yourself to find some small bit of peace in that. Oh, and ice cream. Find peace in ice cream when all else fails.

  5. I’m not going to tell you what to do, because we all know how that turned out last time and it still makes me hate myself a little. I’m just going to say that it’s comforting to have friends who are as over-the-top introspective and place-attached and sentimental as I am. So, since we share these qualities, I’ll say that when I have these feelings about leaving a place in the moment – for instance, the last place I lived where my mother visited me before she died, where after she died I would curl up in the guest room where she’d slept sometimes for days – the feelings are never as intense once the move has happened. In other words, the worrying and planning and obsessing is always, always worse than how it actually feels once it’s done. In no way do I minimize this process for you, but at the same time, I offer you: It will all work out and be the way it is meant to be.

  6. In the end, you and J will know what the right choice (both short-term and long-term) is for your family, although it may feel murky now. So, I don’t feel like I can influence you either way, but I *can* share my own experiences.

    The Chancellor and I just moved from a beautiful townhome to a “crumby beige apartment” as you so aptly put it. I was nervous about the move–we decided to leave a stone fireplace, wood floors, and gorgeous detailing because the rent was just getting too expensive and our landlord was starting to eagerly discuss selling the place anyway (and we’re in no position to buy). Plus: I just hate moving. And it was the first home we’d ever shared together.

    But it’s funny about this bland, generic over-white apartment. I feel more at home here than I ever did in the remote, beautiful, expansive house I just left. The space is cozy, and much easier to clean. We each have an enormous walk-in closet. And there’s a beautiful shared backyard that bunnies, squirrels, and chipmunks visit on a regular basis. I left good things behind, but I came to love things about this new place, too.

    Whatever you decide to do will be right for your family in the end. And the best parts of your home–each other–will always be with you. Good luck with decision-making! My thoughts will be with you.

  7. I wouldn’t presume to answer that question for you. Even if we were long time best friends I don’t think that I could make that kind of call. But here’s the more important information in my book…

    You cannot make a wrong decision.

    It may feel like there is a wrong and a right here, but that’s a lie built by heartache. With your precious family around you the decision you make will be the right one. If you stay in the house you will be ok. If you move to a suburban rental you will be ok. If you decide to live fabulously downtown in a much smaller place you will be ok. All of these choices will have different outcomes, but you will still be surrounded by love and everything will be ok. You two are brilliant women and you will make the right decision for you.

    I don’t know what the universe has waiting for you out in the wings. In fact, the universe could be awaiting your next move. It’s hard to know. I imagine that if you adopt here it will be wonderful, and if you adopt in your next home that will be wonderful too. In the future Bram will know the fierceness of family love and that is all you need.

    I send you so much support, and positive energy, and my admiration. It sounds to me like that grief will always weigh a bit heavy, but as I think about all you have written here, all the right choices you have made in the face of pain and heartache, I cannot imagine that you could get life wrong.

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