I waxed another woman’s floor today.*
Back when we were still in the showing and hoping part of the home selling process, I met the woman who ultimately bought our house. Her agent had scheduled a 9 am showing, which I thought was insane but agreed to in that ever present “maybe this will be the one” state of mental insanity known as home selling. That morning, I had approximately 17 minutes to get the litter box emptied, carry out the garbage and make one last pass with the vacuum and I was moving fast. That is, until Charlie, aka Charles Barkey, went ballistic in the front room.
Now, one thing to know about our dog is that his ballistic proclivities are not necessarily an indication of a horde of zombies on the front porch. It could actually be a cat on the sidewalk across the street. However, the more concussive his barking, the more likely the intruder is nearing the front door. At this point, my ear drums were throbbing and he was running from one window to another. There may have been saliva flying.
A quick peek out the window confirmed that the potential buyers were indeed at my home at 8:43 in the freaking morning. I quickly decided that anyone that impatient for a showing deserved potential clumps of Lucy fur on the bedroom carpet. So I leashed up Charlie and left the house.
The woman, who looked to be about 6 or 7 months pregnant, was there with a little person of the approximate 2 year size.
Ah, home showings scheduled around naps. I could understand that.
Fast forward only a few short weeks and I was signing the short stack of papers that transferred my wonderful 1923 Dutch Colonial and dreams to this mostly unknown woman and her husband. The woman at the title company casually mentioned that the buyer was actually due to deliver her baby any day.
My inclination to disparage any woman who looks that great so close to her due date was quickly supplanted by my compassion. Can you imagine the nesting urge with no nest? I believe in leaving a house clean for the new owner, but now I wanted it to be really ready to move into. The poor woman would have enough to do putting away the stack of Onesies and newborn-sized diapers without worrying about scuffs on the living room floor.
But within a few feet of the front door, I quickly realized I wasn’t waxing her floors. Sure, she may have technically owned them already, but I owned my memories and no piece of paper would ever change that. That 16×20 foot rectangle of old oak in the living room was still mine as long as I was the one on hands and knees, hands gripping the cloth.
There is something poetic about moving through a large room, hearing your knees creak and feeling your back ache while the smell of wax fills your nose. It isn’t the sort of poetry of flowers and sunshine, of lovers in soft beds. It is the poetry of hard work and aging dreams and wrinkles where there weren’t before. Its the kind of poetry a body can’t fully appreciate until later.
I went into labor in this house. I watched dawn creep over the tree line while Littlest nursed and never slept. I held three children’s hands while checking their temperatures, guided homework, encouraged piano practice, and bandaged bloodied knees, lips, and foreheads. This house is where I learned to write stand-up sets and novels. This house is where I’ve cried and laughed and loved until my heart was full.
This house, with its hardwood floors that required waxing, was where my life changed the most. It was in this very living room where I mourned leaving my life as a teacher. It was in this house where I embraced my “middle years” and the many milestones of those middle years. As the house I’ve lived the longest as an adult, this house is where I thought my children would come back to as adults themselves.
By the time I got to the kitchen and looked through the dining room and out the windows of the front room, I was pretty pleased with the expanse of shiny wood floor. In the time it takes to wax the first floor of this house, a body has plenty of time to remember and find the way to say goodbye.
Another woman will soon decide to erase the scuffs of shoes and furniture arrangement. She will think of them as hers and another set of children will be birthed and nursed and cared for here. Another woman will think of these floors as her own.
But as long as I can, I will remember these floors and this place as mine at least for the years of 2004-2014.
Thank you for holding me up and keeping me and my family safe for all these years. You were a good house and a great home. You were a great stanza in the poem of my life.
*I started this post on Tuesday, the day we signed all the paperwork selling our house.
EDIT: I heard from my old neighbors – the new owner of my hardwood floors delivered her baby the day AFTER moving in. That’s more crazy than I could have handled, let me tell you. 🙂