One of the things that found most difficult this summer was the feeling that no place was really home. We went back to Baltimore with an offer on the house and every intention of finishing the details of the sale in the following weeks. We hadn’t seen the house since we left in December but had been assured it looked great and was showing well. We weren’t thrilled with the offer, but we wanted to be done with the stress and worry of having an empty house on the other side of the world. Well, I wanted to be finished with the stress. Mark would have been content to wait a bit longer or to hold on to the house indefinitely. After we agreed on the terms of the sale, the soon-to-be new owners wanted to get into the house early. A few weeks early, before the loan was approved and well before the closing. We didn’t want to do this, and were getting plenty of pressure to just relax and go ahead with things. You can guess how that turned out. No deal. No sale. Still own the Baltimore house.
After that disappointment, I went by the house to see how it looked. I made the mistake of bringing the kids, thinking they would like to see the house again. I had no idea the place would be dirty, with an overgrown yard that resembled a jungle. When we opened the door, we were slapped in the face by the overpowering scent of empty old house. Not the most pleasant way to come home. All three children burst into tears because their house looked abandoned, unloved, and forgotten. It made me sad, but more than that I was angry. No wonder no one wanted to buy the house! After seeing the shape our house was in after a few months unoccupied, I didn’t want to buy it either.
Our storage space wasn’t in much better shape. It had been unloaded by the movers and had been packed from front to back as tightly as possible. When I pulled up the metal door there was no way to move inside the space– the boxes and furniture were stacked all the way to the ceiling. Some of the boxes were already starting to collapse. This wasn’t surprising considering a few pieces of heavy furniture had been wedged on top of everything. My brother helped me pull everything out and rearrange things into a larger space. Surprisingly, not much seemed to be broken, but once again it was days of looking at things I used to love and knowing they were just going to be sitting unappreciated for who knows how long.
So the summer was all about letting go. Letting go of my pretty house, letting go of all the possessions that used to make that house feel like a home, and letting go of the expectation that those things would be in pristine condition when we eventually return to the US. In a way seeing things in their inevitable decline was good. I was less disappointed when we came back to Shanghai and I was once again in my less than perfect house and trying to cook in my tiny kitchen. Not that the Baltimore house is perfect, but now the grass is a little less green, I suppose. So here’s to being back in Shanghai and making another go of it, trying out some more new things, and plodding along with my Mandarin. Here’s to the next few months of adapting and changing and rolling with the punches. Here’s to making this work.