I pledged this year, being 40 and all, to write about my 40 favorite memories. The reality is, at any given moment in time, we are all only just a collection of our pasts. None of us knows what the future will hold, or if an open door will even present itself. Sometimes it’s nice to pause and remember the best of the past. The best memories re-assure oneself that, if the future is not to be held and it is, indeed, time to cross over, this earthly life has been “enough.” Oppositely, should the door open, the best memories prepare oneself to step across the threshold and face the challenges and wonders that lie ahead. Either way, reflection is good. Reflection has purpose. What’s most interesting, as I have been making my list, is that most of my best memories are of the small things…something said, something felt, something beautiful my eyes have rested upon. The best, oddly, are never the biggest.
One of my best memories is one of the more recent. On Friday, August 28, of this year, just about three weeks shy of my 40th birthday, J. and I drove together to pick up N. from kindergarten. I think he was a bit surprised to see both Mom and Dad in the carpool line. You see, I had been in Houston wrapping up details on the sale of our existing home there…a lovely 1910 Victorian that we restored with much sweat, several arguments, a few days of giving up, one or two injuries and an extraordinary amount of love. The house was set to close on August 31. I don’t think N. expected me home yet.
In the midst of all of this, J. and I had looked at a house in Dallas’s Historic Belmont Addition, just one week prior. Being Dallas natives, we had moved back to be closer to family. I wanted N. to have the kind of childhood that I had, with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all around. J. wanted N. to have the kind of childhood he never had, as his entire extended family remained in the northeast. We both walked out of the grand, old 1926 Tudor/Craftsman saying to each other, “I think this could work.” If J. and I both can say this, then that, in and of itself, is something…like stars aligning, or a double rainbow or finding yourself caught in a storm when you happen to actually have an umbrella in the car. It was a moment of which to take note.
The crazy thing was, I had seen this home online the spring before, when we weren’t ready to even buy, but, of course, I was shopping. I thought it lovely and gracious, at the time, but then the owners pulled it off the market at the start of the summer. Sigh. Unbelievably, though, it was placed back on the market in August, just a week or so before we booked the appointment. Had she been waiting for us?
The problem was, we really hadn’t planned on making an offer on a home until our Houston house was fully settled and the money was in the bank. We both just wanted certainty behind the whole thing. I’m a real estate broker, so I made a second showing appointment for myself that Sunday, on my way to Houston. I walked through the house, in full silence, just listening to my own steps on the hardwood floors, gazing out through the waves of vintage glass, and I thought, “This could really work.” I contacted the listing agent directly and let her know of our interest and to keep me posted on any activity. After all, our Houston house would be closing in only one week now. Maybe she would sit at least that long.
Wednesday morning came, and I answered my cell in Houston. The house had multiple second showings over the weekend, and another agent was submitting an offer for her clients that day. We had the opportunity to submit by midnight that night, and the seller would review all offers on Thursday morning. Great. After multiple calls with J. and multiple decisions, I was preparing offer paperwork at 9:00 p.m. that night. So much for certainty. It was time for faith.
Then, we waited.
Thursday afternoon came, and I answered my cell in Houston. It was the listing agent. She congratulated me and said, “The seller accepted your offer. No counter. It’s done, fully signed and I’ll send you over a copy.” We had bought a house, unexpectedly, not really planned. I mean, J. had only seen it once! We had to think and act so quickly.
You know what that meant? That meant it was likely perfect. More often than not, the decisions in life that require fast movement, through a gut trust, are the best ones made.
So, Friday came and I drove home earlier than planned. We decided to pick up N. from school together and surprise him. The house we were buying was only blocks from the current house we were leasing, so we would travel the normal route until arriving at the last few turns.
Sure enough, we passed the main turn to the right to go home. N. had been jabbering from his booster seat in the back about school, and this friend, and that friend, and fun projects, and playground infractions against him, and then he stopped, “Where are we going?”
“I just want Dad to drive by this place,” I said, casually.
“Oh, I know what we’re doing. We’re going to drive by aNOther house.” Clearly he was used to this M.O.
“I just want to take a look at something.” I wasn’t budging.
We turned down Skillman and passed Tietze park, one of N.’s favorites. It was well-known by all the neighborhood kids for the fabulous low branches of its majestic, old trees, fantastic for climbing. We went a couple of blocks further and turned to the right.
“Hey buddy,” I said. “Would it be cool to be able to ride your bike over to Tietze Park?”
“Yeah,” he replied.
“What about Benny’s right down the street? Would it be fun to get up on a Saturday morning and just walk to Benny’s and grab a bagel?”
“Yeah! I love Benny’s,” he participated further.
By this point, we were at the stop sign, with our new footprint staring down on us from the next corner.
As we pulled through the intersection I said, “What if we could really do all those things?” He looked puzzled as we came to a stop in front of the house. He looked out the window and up the hill to the tall brick facade above him. As he did, I turned around from the front and said, “Well, buddy, we can…because Dad and I just bought this house.”
A vibrant smile came over his profile and he slowly turned back to look at us. He was crying.
My child was five. I had seen him cry time and time again as a mother. I’d seen him cry when he was hungry, cry when he needed changing, cry when another child took away a toy, cry when he had to leave and stop playing, cry when he had fallen and scraped his knee, cry when he thought life was unfair, cry when he didn’t get his way. The first five years of life are full of crying; but, I had never seen a cry like this. It was a welling cry, where the tears just pooled in his eyes and only a couple tiptoed down his little, plump cheeks. These were tears of joy.
It was the first time in my life that I had actually seen my son cry out of sheer happiness, and it brought me to my knees. I reached back and placed my hand on his soft little boy knee. We were now both crying, and we all three laughed hysterically. It was the best of memories, and, in those few minutes together, sitting in a car at the curb, the three of us were already home.
J. and I had been together for almost 25 years, and I could only count on one hand the number of times that I had actually seen him cry. I knew, in that moment, that I had been granted the opportunity to experience something truly miraculous. I knew, that as this little boy would grow into an adolescent and, finally, into a man, that few women would ever witness what I just had.
I felt so very honored to be the first.