Sometimes I imagine the new house has a soul, and I need to impress our family's worthiness upon it. Show it that we belong.
I dance around the kitchen with Lauren in my arms, spinning her until her laughter turns to hiccups. I step on the sunlight that patches its way across the bedroom carpet, and dig my toes in, savoring. We read more stories and do more puzzles and use more imagination.
It's exhausting. Because besides trying to be the perfect, organized, joyful family, there are boxes to unpack. Really, they're languishing in the garage, being brought inside at the sad rate of one per day. Or less.
I've already over-boiled a pan on the glass-topped stove, leaving a black mark that I don't know how to remove. The hose has already been left on the clematis vine, forgotten, far past the limits of our voluntary, city-wide water conservation pledge. I've yelled here. Cried here. Been broadsided by a giant, girl-induced mess in the upstairs playroom. It's all I can do to keep pretending we deserve this lovely home, even after the shortcomings of real life have been reestablished, and we're only two weeks in.
But at midnight (and 3am and 4:30am) when I shuffle down the hallway towards the staircase and a baby's cry or a daughter's call, the house is sleeping. The living room is low and warm, waiting to hold us in the morning. The stairs blink, dazedly, as I climb; they roll over again to wait for a clatter of children at sunrise. The curtains are snug, cushioning our dreams inside tall and steady walls. Sentinels of rest and belonging.
On the way back to my dark, green-walled room, I feel it more simply than I can in the daylight. The truth sidles up next to me and I bump its hip, teasing: I guess we belong here. We don't have to prove it or pretend it or own it.
It just is.
Which is a good thing, because I couldn't force the belonging in this home any more than I can manage to unpack more than one box per day.
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