This weekend, I made about sixty trips up and down the stairs with arms full of laundry baskets, moving boxes and optimistic carry-on suitcase after packing up three months worth of essentials for my family of five. You read that right-we.are.home. For anyone who didn’t know, our home flooded in the Texas storms so since February 15th, we’ve been living in my parent’s house. What we thought would be a one night stay turned into nearly three months and it has left me in a deeply reflective, overwhelmingly grateful state.
I moved out of my parent’s house when I was 18. I left for college in Chicago and for the first time in my life as the third oldest of seven kids, I was alone. I lived in my own place for a semester until I transferred to play volleyball in California which landed me in an apartment with my teammate and dear friend. I was engaged the following year and married the next which means it has been thirteen years of being fully responsible for myself (and my family.)
That first night we drove through the snow and ice to defrost in front of the fire I couldn’t think of anything aside from how grateful I was to have somewhere warm and lovely to stay while so many Texans didn’t have that privilege. We thought our power might return the next day so when it finally returned three days later, we thanked everyone profusely for shifting bedrooms and schedules to accommodate us and headed for home. We opened the door to find flooding in the house which eventually spread through the entire first floor and led to mold, all which pushed our move-back-home date back week after week.
At the start, it felt inconvenient and imposing. My older sister and her daughter along with one of my younger sisters, her husband and daughter also live with my parents. I talked with O about possibly renting as the dates pushed back further and further. I couldn’t settle in, couldn’t stop feeling guilty. Finally, I chose to shift my mindset and look at this time as an opportunity. While we only live 20 minutes from my parents, busy schedules mean we don’t spend much more than a couple hours here and there at a time together every few weeks. I realized this was a special time I’d never get back and finally, finally, exhaled.
I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that.
In the nearly three month period, I made dinner about ten times. My mom worked tirelessly to cater to O’s vegan diet and our paleo/gluten-free diet on top of feeding everyone else in the house. My kids got to wake up every day and end every night spending time with their cousins. O and I spent many evenings sitting by the fireplace to watch a show with my parents, I got a chance to do life with my sisters and we could head out for a date night without worrying about finding a sitter.
O and I would crawl into bed at the end of a long day and look at each other and say “we’re gonna miss this.” We were given what felt like an eternal spring break. Some things were harder, of course. It’s challenging to not be in your own space. Its’ difficult when your baby doesn’t sleep well in the pack n’ play and you can’t let her sleep train because her room is across from her toddler cousin’s. Losing routine, access to our space and things led to a complete halt in most-if not all-of my work goals.
But it was beautiful.
Watching my kids wake up and eat breakfast at the dining table I ate my childhood breakfasts at, sitting around the table at dinner doing “High, Low, Buffalo,” listening to my dad holding Zeameh and singing the songs I know so well-it was something we never would have known to ask for. We never would have accepted. But sometimes, the greatest gifts come hidden in trials.
I didn’t know how much my arms were carrying until I was forced to put nearly all of it down. I relaxed my shoulders, took in a deep breath and exhaled. A three month exhale for thirteen years of holding my breath. As I get ready to inhale again, I’m remembering not to go that long again before laying the excess down. To hop in the car and make the 20 minute drive to spend more intentional time in the house that makes me feel like a kid again. To never get so lost in the hustle and bustle of young motherhood that I lose sight of the moments right at our fingertips.
It’s good to be home.