The past few days have been a little off. I woke up yesterday morning to a text from my sister in a group message with my parents asking who wanted donuts. My sister sees my parents all the time, they text in the group message about meeting for lunch and dinner often, but yesterday it just hit me a little harder. I wanted a donut! I wanted to be sitting in my living room and hear my sister say “Hi!” over the jingle of her car keys as she hung them on the hook. I wanted a cup of tea from my step-mom, a donut from Taylor, to talk to my dad about cars and to watch Nathan and Grace play together.
After school today I listened to “The House That Built Me” on repeat for the entire drive home. When I got home I poured a glass of wine, laid in bed with Carly and cried over old pictures of proms, birthdays, siblings being born, old boyfriends and holidays with my family. So, these are the houses that built me.
My dad, Claire, Taylor & I moved into this house in 2002. I was 8, Taylor was 9, and Nathan was weeks away from coming into the world. When I was little I would make wishes while blowing on dandelions and every time my wish was the same. “I wish I had a baby brother or sister.” My wish came true, a few times over, after I moved to this house. This house was my stability. I come from a huge family where things were bound to get a little crazy from time to time, but my dads house has always been steady ground. My safe place. I came home to my dad when I needed to know how to fix my car, open a bank account, or what to write on a job application. I came home to Claire when I needed to cry about some meaningless high school problem and I knew she would always be on my side, 100% of the time, without question. Almost as often, I came home to Claire to tell her about some medical ailment I was convinced I was dying from and have her tell me I was going to be fine, and I believed her every time.
In this home I found out I was going to have a little sister by snooping through Claire’s laptop. It was just her & I at home when I called her down to explain the picture from her sonogram. She claimed it was Nathan until I kindly pointed out the 2007 date stamped on the top, and so we sat in the basement and laughed and talked and smiled as I asked her a million questions and thought about my life with a baby sister. Charlotte Grace brought exuberant joy into our home.
We spent many Christmas mornings in matching pajamas. We spent many hours watching redbox movies and eating sushi. We all cried in the driveway when I left for college. I practiced softball in the backyard with my dad and played on the playset with Nathan and Grace. I was in my bedroom when I found out my 9th grade boyfriend cheated on me, I was in my parents room when I found out my Pepa passed away, I was in my kitchen when I found out I got into ODU, and I was sitting on my deck when I told my parents I was moving to St. John.
I will never forget the sound of my dad opening up his suitcase to give us presents after a business trip, the Sonos playing Goo Goo Dolls, or the smell of the Yankee Candle that always made me think Claire made cookies. 14 years of living in this home gave me enough strength, happiness, and wisdom to get me through the rest of my life.
My mom, my step-dad Pete, Taylor & I moved into this house in 2002 while my mom was pregnant with Aidan. 2002 was apparently the year for baby brothers and new houses. My step-dad Rodney had passed away a couple of years before, so the years in between were difficult for all of us to find stability. Moving into this house was the beginning of a new chapter and a new family. My moms house is typically something out of a Martha Stewart or Williams-Sonoma catalogue. Black and white family photos hang perfectly on the walls, our Tiffany blue kitchen aid mixer is a perfect splash of color under our black painted cabinets and our mantle is always decorated with flowers and candles. This is the home where we would take prom pictures, have family gatherings, and where I wanted to bring my friends. All of the beautiful things in our home are a representation of hard work and dedication which is what I learned from my mom and Pete. They showed me what it took to get up in the morning, work your ass off all day, and come home exhausted with a smile on your face and be able to pull together a meal you would have thought took hours. I can’t fathom how many times I’ve walked in to my mom blasting music in the kitchen, dancing around wearing a baseball cap while doing all of the dishes or making a meal to take to a get-together. Or how many times I’ve heard Pete grinding coffee before 6am to bring up to my mom in bed to wake her up. Those moments are so pure and so full of love and looking back on them is a reminder of the light-hearted happiness that filled our home.
In this home I celebrated my 16th birthday and some uninvited guests (the police) shut that down pretty quick and I spent the next 3 months of summer INSIDE that house and NOT out with my friends. Oops, am I allowed to talk about that yet? Pete, I can feel you rolling your eyes as you read this. I became a big sister, again, to my sweet little Aidan Cooper. I wish I could put a number on how many family gatherings we have had in this home. Cookouts, crab feasts, 4th of July jello shots and surprise parties. All of those moments are a representation of how important family is and how much love is shared between so many people. In this home I’ve watched endless SNL skits that Pete had already watched 10 times over but couldn’t wait to share them with us and mouthed the words as they played. I’ve listened to Pete strum the guitar in the front room while the dog sits next to him on the couch looking out of the window. I’ve heard my mom and my sister start the sentence “WHO TOOK MY….” about a million times. In this home I threw a hot straightener at Taylor’s head, screamed at my brother at the dinner table, and slammed my door enough times that I’m surprised it didn’t get taken off the hinges. I’ve stolen bottles of Jose Cuervo out of the pantry and refilled Grey Goose bottles with water. I clearly remember being the definition of an angsty teenager in this home so I’m really glad they still like me. I was a little insane.
Taking a day to remember these moments started off a little sad but I’m really glad I did this because it is now a documented reminder of how God has blessed me beyond words with two amazing homes with two lifetimes full of memories. I wouldn’t be where I am today without all 5 parents and all of my brothers and sisters. They gave me all of the knowledge and strength to leave home but to always remember where I came from. They built me.