Moving Forward

Dog in a front yard with a house in the background
The author’s childhood home and family dog in Westchester county

I remember when my parents told my brother and me that we were going to have to move from the apartment that the two of us had lived in nearly all our lives. We’d made do in that Bayside, Queens apartment since my brother was born, sharing two bedrooms between the four of us.

At first, it was really hard, knowing that we were leaving behind so many formative memories, but also that we’d likely be leaving Queens altogether. I remember tagging along when we were househunting, trying to find a new home, one with enough space for the next phase of our lives.

Eventually, we found a house in White Plains, a suburb of New York City in Westchester County. It looked different back then than it looks now. The living room layout was totally different, as was the kitchen. Even the stairs to the basement were in a different place altogether. We moved into that house in 2000, put a lot of work and love into it, and made it into our home.

11 going on 12 was a tough age for me to uproot my life and start anew. I think it was easier for my brother, him being two years younger than me. He was still in elementary school when we moved, young enough to easily make new friends, although he was always better at that than I was.

I was starting seventh grade when we moved. I don’t miss middle school. Fortunately for me, our new house was along the same school bus route as a kid who was in my Spanish class. He saw me doodling in my notebook, and he must’ve realized that I was completely out of my depth; he was right. He made it a point to chat with me after class and then every day on the bus, and today we’re still best friends and I was his best man at his wedding.

I remember being really excited that, now that we had our own house instead of an apartment, there was nothing stopping us from getting dogs.

In 2002, my parents brought home an adorable miniature schnauzer puppy. She was the first white schnauzer I’d ever seen. She quickly established herself as the alpha dog even when we rescued a second dog, a mixed breed Border Collie-and-who-knows-what-else that was thrice her size.

In 2013, a third dog brought some youthful exuberance to the canine family as the first two aged into seniors. Between the three dogs and the two cats we had, there were always ample photo ops in our home.

A photo collage of cats and dogs
A sampling of photos of family pets

In the 20 years since we moved into that house and made it our home, my brother and I have grown up, met our respective partners, and moved in with them. The older dogs have since passed away after good, long lives.

Recently, I was loading up my car with a bunch of junk and old clothes. (I need to sort through it soon. But not today.) The reason for that was that my parents no longer need a big family home now that we’ve moved out, so they’re preparing to sell the house and transition to retirement.

So many of these memories came flooding back to me as I sifted through all the drawers, closets, and storage areas. So many things I’d forgotten that came back to me in an instant, as soon as I picked up an object and dusted it off to reveal what was hidden underneath. Old toys, baseball cards, photo albums, knick-knacks, and tchotchkes from 5 to 10 to 15 to 20 years ago.

I do feel like it’s been a lot easier to move forward this time, now that I’m 31 going on 32, no longer worried about awkwardly fitting in at a new school.

But that house was our home for two decades. My brother and I came of age there. We watched puppies age into seniors there. My parents went to work in that city every day for so long. But all things inevitably come to an end.

In the coming months, my parents hope to sell that house and retire to Florida to be around my grandparents and some other family members. It’s like a rite of passage that all New Yorkers seem to go through eventually. You trade in your snow shovel and head south for extended summers.

Maybe someday, after my partner and I are married, become parents ourselves, and save up enough to retire ourselves many, many years later? Maybe we’ll make that pilgrimage to greener (warmer?) pastures, too.

For now though, my mom sends me photos of all the rooms in the house getting emptier and emptier. Furniture sold off, memories packed away to bring along to the next phase of our lives. It’s going to be strange having my parents so far away, though these days, everyone feels far. Thankfully we have phone calls and video chats to keep us all close, even from afar.

A cat and dog relaxing in a living room
A quiet moment in the family home

It is bittersweet to see our home transitioning back into just a house again.

Gone are the colorful walls of my bedroom and my brother’s bedroom, previously painted the colors of our favorite sports teams, now an offwhite.

Most of the dog hair that always seemed to get all over anyone who dared to wear black clothes has since been swept away, as has the distinct pet aroma of our home that my friends always swore they could smell.

But those memories will never fade. They make me smile when I think about the times we spent there, the memories we made over two decades.

In a perfect world, maybe we’d pass the house down from generation to generation as a family heirloom. But it feels right to be able to pass along that house to another family, to allow them to create cherished memories of their own, to turn that house into their home.

I hope whoever buys it pours as much love into it as we did.

We can cherish the memories forever, but the biggest thing the last life phase transition taught me is that you can’t be afraid of embracing something new. You never know what the future holds, and sometimes, it’s everything you never knew you needed, and it’s the best thing for you in that time of your life.

Whatever happens over the next 20 years, it will never change the fondness I have for the 20 years we spent in that little suburban ranch on the corner.

Most of all, I’m excited to see what this next phase in life will bring us. If you’re not moving forward, then what direction are you moving, really? So here’s to the next 20 years and the memories we’ll make along the way.

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