When we first moved into this rental the kids had, maybe, half a week to get themselves in order, pick out the rooms they were using (well, I picked them, but don’t tell them that!) and then they headed out the door and into my parent’s car. They drove for two or three straight days and went to Nebraska for the summer. I didn’t really have much of a choice, I was at a new job, had very little vacation time, and simply had to get them situated. It would have been horribly unfair of me to make Abbi watch her other 3 sibling when she hadn’t even gotten used to the fact she was going to have to shoulder that responsibility a lot of the time anyway.
When they left, the house was a massive, pathetic mess. There were boxes simply everywhere!
My goal at this point was to have that above mess put away, the boxes broken down, and the house looking like a home. I did it, by the way. The biggest thing, to me, was to get the pictures put up and the house set up so that they felt like they were home, not in just another strange place in a very bad few months. As a result, the things that were familiar, the beds, the dressers, even the pictures on the wall. It’s really hard to figure out what to do in those months after. It’s not the same as if we’d stayed in our house and everything was still hung up and laid out. We were only a few weeks past the funeral when we had to move. If it were not for my Mom and Dad, we would have had the worst time of it. As it was, 30-40 pounds heavier and not used to the amount of manual labor any more, I’d nearly passed out that first day when we moved everything we could. We hired movers only to take the furniture and big stuff. Thanks to my Mom, even they were floored that we’d managed so much.
I wanted something on the wall, though I’m not big into cheesy, trite sayings that express when I can express on my own. However, I can’t make vinyl lettering on my own and the wall needed something. Abbi found “Home – the place your story begins” and that clicked for me. It was fitting, though, for us and I put it up. My wife’s sister even was a bit amazed that we’d gotten all the photos and artwork on the walls. To make the transition easier, I hung up all the same pictures and the same artwork. Nearly all of it with the whole family – Andrea included. They’re up there because the photos of her were so rare after the kids were born, so getting this one session with all the kids was just so great I put them all up.
But now . . . there are days it’s like our home – our new home even – are stuck there. Those photos are from when we lived in Dallas – more than 8 years ago now. The boys are babies. The girls are tiny. I see the photos on the way up the stairs every day. Sure, there is a part of me that would love to jump in there and just live in that moment and place my hand on her cheek. It’s the contact, that touch of her skin or the feel of her hand on my hair or as it caresses mine that I’m missing more than anything right now. I miss the adult conversation . . . hell pauses in the conversation.
But today I just felt like it was time. I didn’t take pictures down, in fact I’ll likely just add to them as time moves on. I did, however, remove some artwork. Two paintings that Andrea had put up – well, prints really, not actual paintings, were from our home in Texas. She loved them, they moved with us, hung in our kitchen, etc…but in the last two years, I’ve noticed that my kids’ artwork has been steadily improving, and is very nice. So this weekend I decided they deserved that spot, not some nameless, faceless art print that was from a design style I’m not sure we even use any more. I took the two painting down, and using gallery frames, put up two of the boys’ pieces from this last year. I plan on doing the same with Hannah and Abbi.
Hell, Hannah’s good enough that we’re using one of her pieces for our Christmas cards. (If I get off my behind and DO Christmas cards this year)
I’m not replacing Andrea from our lives, that’s just not possible. There’s nobody else going up on the wall, either. But what I am doing is showing the kids that they matter just as much – maybe more – as where we came from. That their lives this last year were important and the events they lived were important, too.
So the first stops off the map are there. I’m proud of their stuff, and they were beyond happy I thought it should go up. Abbi looked at it and smiled, and Hannah asked what I thought should go up of hers. There’s just so much, I don’t really know what to choose next.
It’s not that we’re brilliantly artistic, all of us. It’s that we need to keep travelling down the road. Just because she stopped and stayed behind doesn’t stop the world turning. We’re stuck walking – sometimes trudging – through the smooth, rough, and undergrowth strewn paths, but we’re still moving.
The next step is putting new pictures up. I might even just take more, letting everyone know that our lives are traced from the pictures on a wall.