Postcards from Purgatory

I am saying goodbye to my house next week. I didn’t think I would be so suddenly sentimental about the place, given how keen I was on getting out of it for the last year or so. But now that it’s time, I realize that wow, there’s a lot of memories here I’m leaving behind once and for all.

We brought home two new babies to this house, celebrating milestones like first birthdays and first steps and first days of school. This is the only place they’ve ever called home. We said goodbye to two most amazing dogs, right there in the living room while I sat on the floor with their heads in my lap. We’re leaving the patio where even now, three years later, I still look out beyond the fence and imagine Callie strolling over to us as if no time had passed, full of guilt for one mistake so many ages ago.
golden assault

It’s not the house I will miss, wooden bones and wires perched on a hill, the faucet you have to wiggle a certain way. It’s the memories, of the way Brody would walk on the pool net, or Mulan would flop under the ficus to rest. Emmett jumping into the pool to “save” my sister’s shih tzu who was a frantic swimmer. Teaching Brody to surf in the shallow end. We said several goodbyes, but also many hellos.


These are memories that persist in my head, since the backdrop is here every day to remind me and make them seem maybe not so far away. But when we leave, they will recede into the recesses of my brain and become dusty with disuse, a mental picture to be recalled only with effort. It’s bittersweet.

I think maybe it would be a little less sad were we moving directly to a new chapter I was super excited about, but, yeah, not so much. I’m trying not to channel Marvin from The Hitchhiker’s Galaxy when I talk about the next year, but it’s hard. Nobody wants to sell their house right now (except, apparently, us.) I say cheerily to people who ask that “we are moving into an apartment while we wait for the right house to pop up on the market.” It sounds nicer than “we’re settling into purgatory for the indefinite future,” but they all respond with pity anyway. Some people nod in a noncommittal manner, but there is a small but vocal subset of the population who invariably respond with alarm. This group is women with small children and/or children who were once small.

Unimpressed Brody mimics the response of every single mother when I tell them our plans for the next few months.

It came up with my doctor, herself a mother of three, after she took my blood pressure and I felt the need to explain the numbers. “You’re moving into an apartment HOW big?” she asked. She lowered the chart and fixed me with her sharp blue eyes. “With two kids and two dogs.” I nodded.

“It’ll be fine,” I said, smiling a little too widely. “It’s just for a few months.”

She shook her head and made a note. “Call me if you need some Xanax.” pause. “And you will.”

The other responses were similarly uplifting. “I did that last year. Almost got a divorce.”

“You do realize that is a terrible proposition, right? I did that once. I was probably an alcoholic for a few months’ time.”

There’s nothing to be done about it now, really. Keep a stiff upper lip and all of that. My mother reminded me that her mother had 17 brothers and sisters growing up in her Irish Catholic family, and somehow they all managed in tight quarters, but if I recall after the fistfights died down at the one and only family reunion we were allowed to attend they didn’t exactly relish the closeness. And not all of them avoided jail time in life.

If I’m working from an optimistic worldview, I could say that my cabin fever will simply translate into more time in the great outdoors and Brody and I will simply go for a 5 hour run every day and I will come out the other side tanner and triumphant. Why don’t we go with that hypothesis for now.

But yes, we’re settling into purgatory for the indefinite future. Send brownies.

Filed: Blog, Daily Life, Musings Tagged: ,
  • Don’t worry about it. When we sold our first house and moved 2 states away with 2 small children, 1 dog and a cat we moved into an apartment because we needed to look for a house. We spent a lot of time outside walking, all of us, which was great! Just remember to breathe and you will get through it just fine. I hope you all find that perfect house soon. I am dying to sell ours and move into something bigger, but our subdivision is just not selling. It’s very frustrating. Am even now considering adding on. But then the logistics of having 2 large dogs around all that construction boggles my mind.

  • Katy

    I’ve been living in 678 sq feet with 1 boyfriend and 5 cats – 2 of which are kittens (curtesy of the feral we ‘rescued’ from my apartment colony) that are in the “MUST.GET.INTO.EVERYTHING!” stage. It’s dooable, but at the same time I’m voluntarily working lots of unpaid overtime and counting down the days until the builders finish our house in a few weeks.

  • Lisa W

    I want to sell to move into something smaller (and closer to hubby’s work since I now work from home) but, like Michelle, our subdivision is either not selling or selling at such a reduced price that we can’t afford to take that kind of hit. So, hard as apartment living is going to be, look on the bright side – you did manage to sell.

    I recommend lots of Brody and Koa hugs so that maybe you won’t need as much Xanax!

    • Lisa W

      You know, I just thought about something, though. One thing that will be really hard for me when we move is that this is the last place where Bailey lived. Crap, now I’m teary and we aren’t even moving!

  • Annette Frey

    Thankfully it’s not WINTER! Lots of time outside with kids and dogs should help. : )

    • Annette

      I mean not COLD. You live in a great climate, so that should help.

  • Anonymous

    It’s manageable. You just have to keep your eyes on the goal. It’s the one reason we’re staying where we are at right now – not ideal but it’s because it will lead to the end result that we both want in another state. And I think about my parents who lived in a tent with a camping stove for 6 months while they worked on their current house. In the winter? They just moved the tent into the very bottle level. They didn’t have to live in a tent to do it, they had a perfect house in the neighboring state but they also did a lot of the work on their current house and my dad served as general contractor for what they didn’t do. And it was manageable because the end result was worth it for a little discomfort.

    Is it at least a decent size apartment? And you’re not all cramming into a studio? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Because that would make me mental or an alcoholic. Or a mental alcoholic.

    When I sold my first house…man…leaving the place of so many memories was so hard. It was the only house that Blade knew. So much tied into that place that I can’t even look at the house four years later without pain. If my parents ever sell their place I know I’ll cry. It’s the last place with memories tied to him.

    Good luck! I have no doubt the V family will survive and the new house whenever it is procured will be well worth it.

  • Janet Dilley – Iams

    I predict some funny blogs coming from all of this.

  • Just remember, small apartment living is the perfect incentive to get outside and learn the neighborhood! Make friends, talk to people, ask about houses for sale. Not every house for sale makes it into the listings. You may run into your perfect house by accident.

  • Anonymous

    Wishing you all the best in this transitional period and that is as short as possible with your dream home at the other end. Find something to laugh and smile about every day and keep your eyes open. And when that perfect place comes along, at least you won’t have to make an offer that is contingent on selling a home!

  • Cathey

    Back after a hiatus and a vacation and now I find you have sold your house – Hurrah! I have no doubt that you and your family will handle the close quarters with your usual humor and panache. What is it about people that makes them want to tell you the bad news?! My husband had two knee replacement operations last summer and EVERYONE wanted to tell him their horror story – each time! – not congratulate him on the end of the years of pain he would no longer have to endure.

    I for one know that while there will be some, shall we say INTERESTING MOMENTS . . . you will also have stories that you will probably still be re-telling when your kids bring their kids to your home for Christmas.

    And remember, St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost items, so maybe a short prayer to him will work for FINDING the perfect home at a great price!!! Good luck & God Bless!

  • JaneK

    you are one strong woman so I know you can do this with grace and style! look what you have accomplished…. much more daunting tasks indeed…. your mountain climbing experience recently (don’t make me look up the name) should remind you of that;
    we’ve gotten used to our precious space here in the US but do remind yourself that people live in much smaller space as their permanent home (doesn’t make your task any less difficult but can help to keep from falling into a downward spiral of despair).
    so….. you go girl! Laugh often, cry when you need to, and don’t forget to breathe!!

  • kristina

    Everything is happening as it should, you know our grandparents aren’t gonna let you suffer in the purgs. Either the right path will become clear very soon (or the right house will become available). We are so fortunate to have these “middle class” problems, eh? I had to laugh mom went right to “be lucky there aren’t 20 of you living in a shanty” speech, he he. I was sitting in my car feeling sooooo sorry for myself this week and some poor dude with one leg went hobbling across the street hauling his dollar store groceries and I immediately felt pitch slapped by the universe. I know it’s stressful my dear sister but I am equally certain amazing things are in the future for you. All your charity work is going to come back to you now, YOUR house is waiting. I have already put in a word with my personal best friend, St. Anthony. You know babcia is ON IT. Luv ya!

  • (the other) Dr. V

    Some make small apartment living a form of art/engineering (e.g. IKEA). Here is a competition to live in Sweden’s smallest apartment:

    It will all be OK in the end ๐Ÿ™‚