The Day I Welcomed the Past Into My Home
After my divorce, I moved back into my parents’ home for some time to breathe, regroup, and save money as I determined my next step. I slept in my old bedroom in my twin-sized bed with glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling above me. My little boys shared the room next to mine. We did this for about a year until I felt ready to move out (again).
I got pre-approved for a loan and the next day my best friend called and told me a house five doors down from my parents’ home was on the market.
Finding My Home
The “For Sale By Owner” sign had been stuck in the ground that very day. The house wasn’t a cute 1920s bungalow. It didn’t have a cool mid-century modern design or even a trendy craftsman-style with a sprawling front porch. I didn’t look at it and think, “Yes! This is my dream home!” Instead, it was a 1986-built, 1,500-square foot house that would never grace the covers of a magazine or make the cut for an HGTV show.
Never-the-less, the next day I made an offer. I moved on it quickly because I knew it was MY home. I had prayed before I walked in to see it and I asked God to make it clear whether or not I was supposed to buy that house. I had too much at stake to make a hasty decision. I walked in and was hit with the sight of bad floral wallpaper on the foyer walls, the smell of teenage boy in the second bedroom, a walled-in kitchen with no line-of-sight to the living room, and a laughable amount of storage. But there was one more thing that was really appealing.
There was the undeniable presence of Jesus. And…I felt peace.
After the walk-through, I asked my realtor and my dad (who was a great second set of eyes) if I could have a minute to myself. They waited outside and I stood in the foyer and both smiled and cried. I was so grateful for God’s faithfulness and comfort.
I was home.
A Strange Request
Even though I had grown up just a few homes away, I never knew the woman who formerly lived in my soon-to-be new home. Teresa was the matriarch of the family. I had heard she was going through a divorce and that she had sons a little younger than mine.
Teresa and I passed in the hall at the closing, but that was the extent of my contact with her.
Until Mother’s Day.
Teresa’s daughter-in-law tracked down my email address and sent me a message. She said Teresa had moved to Texas but was going to be in town for Mother’s Day weekend. Her message continued, “I know this might be weird, but I’d like to bring her by to see the house. I’ve heard you’ve done a lot of work on it. She’d love to see it.”
It’s true. I had done a lot of work to the house. I knocked down those confining kitchen walls, added on a screened-in patio and yes, pulled down the floral wallpaper.
I thought about the email request. While, yes, it might be weird to have the previous owner, who was also a complete stranger, into my home, without hesitation I responded:
“Of course she can come by.”
The Blessing of the Past
On Mother’s Day weekend, I met Teresa on the front porch of the house. Two moms who had both walked some bumpy roads hugged for the first time. Beyond that porch was 29-years-worth of memories for Teresa. For her, it was the house where she brought home three baby boys. Leaving it was also the threshold to a new beginning for her and her two sons. So many emotions were jumbled into 1,500-square feet.
She didn’t come alone. Teresa brought her family along for the tour. Two of her three sons were there, along with the daughter-in-law who had reached out to me via email. She even had her grandchildren along. Our two families – eleven of us total – moved through the house, from one room to another, laughing and sharing stories.
My little boys showed her big boys their Ninja Turtles, and her big boys pretended to be curious because, of course, they had played with the same turtles in that same room 25 years earlier.
Meanwhile, Teresa and I laughed about the smell of teenage boys versus toddler boys. And, she stared with her mouth gaping at the kitchen renovation, telling me she’d always wanted to knock down those walls. Then, she told me about the giant oak in the backyard and how it started as a little sapling she had planted when her mother passed away.
We stood in the kitchen together with an unspoken understanding between us.
I would take good care of what she had poured her heart and soul into. In turn, I felt her giving me her blessing to make the home fully mine.
The entire family thanked me for allowing them into the house that day, but I felt like the one who had received the greater blessing. I got to see that my home was built on a foundation of love – a legacy that I am so happy to carry on.
Written by Abby Watts.