When we left Massachusetts almost 5 1/2 years ago, it was for just 2 years. At the time, those two years seemed like they would be the longest years of our lives. It was our first time living outside Massachusetts, much less outside of the US! With our plan to come back “soon” we held on to many of our American ties, not ready to fully immerse ourselves in European life – food, tv, clothing brands, medicine and… our house.
Over these last 5+ years we’ve had to find renters, we’ve evicted renters (and are still waiting on the money owed to us!), found more renters, replaced appliances, the furnace, maintained the landscaping and so much more. It’s exhausting and hard to manage from 4000 miles away. I’m thankful for wonderful friends and family that have helped us out along the way. Unfortunately for us, maintaining our home has been at a cost and not in the least bit profitable. But because our plan was always to go back home, we kept doing it. And… it was our home.
This house, this structure, is our home. At least that’s how we defined it until we engrained ourselves in our expat life. This is the home where we lived when Josh and I got engaged, married, got the dogs (our first babies) and then had our “other” babies ;). For 15 years, this house has been our home, only for 5 of them, we haven’t been there. And we’ve recognized that home is truly where the heart is and the heart for us, is our family. The house itself is like I said, a structure. It holds amazing memories, memories that I look at every single day on my digital photo frame. No joke, every single day. And every picture I see brings a smile to my face and often a tear to my eye.
Two days after we moved into the house was Halloween. A holiday I was so looking forward to – our first home where we would have trick or treaters! Much to my dismay, we had one. Literally. Fast forward to the next year when the rest of the houses on our street were done and we went through hundreds of pieces. A few years later we would be bringing our first child out to collect his first Halloween candy. And then 3 years later, baby #2. Let’s not forget the dogs that we dressed up too!!
But that’s just an example of our neighborhood – one holiday. And the reason it sticks out is because it was immediately after we moved in. It was just the beginning of what would be 10 years with the most wonderful people we could ever live in a community with. I could go on forever on what this neighborhood has meant to myself and Josh. We became a part of this amazing community – having doggie playdates before we all started having kids, then the kids all started to come along and we would have playdates with them and share holidays. Happy times and sad times. And more kids. Boys night. Girls night (which were far too few compared to boys night). Easter egg hunts. Luminaries at Christmas. Chinese food on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. Spontaneous bbq’s with our closest friends. Seriously the list goes on and on.
But let’s not forget the support. The support system that I could never have lived without during those years. Whether it be a sick child, a problem with work, a problem with Josh (hey no marriage is perfect, right?) or anything else that might come up, these were the first people I would go to.
When we moved to Barcelona, it was one of the toughest days of my life. Saying goodbye to my family was tough – saying goodbye to my friends in the ‘hood was gut wrenching. I cried as we left our home and headed to the airport that day in January 2010. “We’ll be back in 2 years!” we said. “It will fly by!” And fly by it did.
What we found is that we loved Barcelona. And we loved life abroad. But we held on to home. We found the friendships changed and evolved. Some in a good way, some, unfortunately, fell to the sidelines. Not just our neighborhood friends but our others as well. But for this particular entry, let’s focus on the neighborhood. It became out of sight out of mind. It’s no one’s fault – not mine, not theirs. Life moves on and we were not there to be a part of it. I can’t blame anyone. Actually I can blame us – we were the ones that left.
Regardless, we held on. Every summer we have spent time in our neighborhood with our friends. At the same time, I also spent chunks of time moving our things, into and out of our house, into and out of storage, arranging for painters and maintenance, etc etc. But time marches on. And in that time we have realized that it is time to let go.
Our children no longer associate home with our house. In fact, they no longer associate home with the United States. A struggle for me to grasp at times. The house is hard to maintain from 4000 miles away, not to mention costly. And the big one – we don’t know when we are coming home. How long do we continue to do this dance? Sure we have tentative plans in the backs of our minds, but then, we thought we were only going to be gone for 2 years so as you can see, planning has really not been our thing.
And so the time has come. The house is for sale. In fact, we have a buyer. But so as not to jinx our upcoming inspection or any final details, I’m not going to elaborate other than to say if all works out the way we hope, we will walk through the doors of our home one last time when we come home in July and turn it over to a new family who will hopefully love it, and our neighborhood as much as we have.
It was a difficult and emotional decision for us, but at the same time incredibly freeing. We can go anywhere when the time comes. Those friends who have stood by us over the last 5 1/2 years will continue to do so no matter where we call home. And those that don’t no longer matter. Home is where our family is, but this house will always have a piece of our hearts.
Knuffels en kussen,