I have come back to this empty apartment to check one last time that we haven’t left anything behind. I walk slowly, my sneakers whispering across the tiled floors, looking into every corner of each room.
Suddenly, I’m sitting in the living room, crying my eyes out.
It wasn’t our idea to move.
Our landlord’s son obtained possession of our apartment about a year ago. She warned us at the time that he had a habit of selling any property he got his hands on. It still came as a shock when we were notified the property had been sold. We prepared to renegotiate our rental contract, but the new owner wasn’t interested. He had purchased the property as a home for his family and wanted us out as fast as possible.
Three weeks later, I’m making this final check of the old place, and just as unforeseen as the move itself, I’m suddenly a mess. I haven’t really had time to process what has happened. This home used to reverberate with the sounds of family life. My family’s life. But now it’s an empty apartment, and its silence has caught me by — and in — my throat.
It’s not the move itself that has me so weepy. It’s the feeling that I’m abandoning my family history here. We moved into this flat almost 40 years ago. Our first son wasn’t yet 2. His brothers never lived anywhere else.
In these empty rooms I see my babies growing up.
Just there, in front of the window, is where we put the Christmas tree. What joy happened in front of that window year after year.
In the boy’s room, just in front of the door, is where the crib once stood, the bunk bed just opposite. Our second boy was in that crib the morning a gas explosion 18 floors above us caused the entire building to be evacuated.
We had an alphabet floor puzzle in the boys’ bedroom. That’s how our son with ADHD first learned to spell — by bouncing a ball on the letters as he spelled out loud. Now that boy is teaching elementary school; he recently won an award for his student’s outstanding progress in reading!
In my bedroom stands the bed in which I suffered the flu for two solid weeks. Once I finally had enough strength to stay awake, I read the boys their bedtime story. They were so excited and jumped into bed to snuggle. They couldn’t understand why I was crying as I read. It was mostly because their snuggles pained my still-sore muscles. But I wouldn’t trade that night of slow reading for anything.
In the front room was the dining table, where one Easter the boys asked me to explain the physics involved in Jesus’ ascension. It wasn’t a lack of faith — they were just trying to understand how it worked. After much discussion, one of them decided Jesus just told Scotty to beam Him up.
Yeah, there was a lot of laughter around that table — the kind of laughter that binds family and friends together. There were also many serious discussions, like when my youngest son’s friend asked if demons really exist. He was afraid and needed reassurance that God is stronger than demons. I tried to help him understand how to pray. That’s when the youngest said, “I’ve got a better idea. When you’re scared, just call my mom. She prays for everyone!” It was the first verbal affirmation from this child that, just maybe, we were doing something right after all.
And right there, in front of me, is the picture taking spot — the small nook between the desk and the front hall that has the good light. A few moments remain etched into my mind. Like the day my first son discovered he had pockets in his pants. We had to have a photo of him putting his hands in and out and in and out. Now, in just a few months, that child will welcome his own firstborn son.
My second son stood in the photo nook grinning from ear to ear so we could document his broken front tooth. He looks a lot like his dad at the same age, with the same tooth broken.
That nook is also where my baby demanded I have a photo with him just before he proudly marched out the door to his first job. He’s getting married in February.
We Have Only Moved
We are unearthing lots of old forgotten photos, photos that recorded so much of our family’s life in this apartment.
Those photos are so much more than a recording of a birthday or Christmas celebration. They attest that God has always blessed us, no matter where any of us lived. We have no reason to doubt His love and continued blessings. We are simply moving onto the next phase of our lives.
But even photos can’t match the actual memories of living here.
This apartment is slightly over 400 square feet. But the memories this small space holds are enough to fill the sky. And that’s what finally stops my tears.
We have only moved. We still have each other and all our memories.
Through all those years and in all those memories God always walked with us.
Finally, my tears are replaced with a watery smile.