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House contained a lot of living for 18 years

Columnist Jen Koski says a tearful goodbye to the family's Rochester home.

Jen's World - Jennifer Koski column sig
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Jay drove away with all of our possessions in a 26-foot long U-Haul at 1 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon.

I’d told him he should get on the road — drive that big rig while there was still light. I said I’d stay behind and finish up. I still had the refrigerator to wipe out. The hardwood floors to sweep. A last look to make sure we got everything.

And that was all true. But so was this: I wanted some time alone in our house.

Jay and I bought the four-bedroom, two-bath side-split on a tree-lined cul-de-sac in the summer of 2003. We were a young family then — our boys just 18 months and 4 years old — and the 1,900 square foot home in northeast Rochester was a dream to us.

“You’ll want to move into something bigger later,” people told us. But what more did we need, really?

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I remember walking in that maroon front door with our very own keys for the first time, drunk on the sense of possibility. But how could I have possibly known how we’d all grow and change over the next 18 years?

Our boys left for kindergarten and their high school graduations through that door. Cub Scouts and summer camps and college. First days, first jobs, first dates.

In that home, we gathered for big family dinners and lean serve-yourself nights. Cozy bedtimes and chaotic bath times and big lazy breakfasts and panicked, last-minute mornings when we tossed the kids granola bars as they ran to the bus. Homework at the kitchen table and game nights on the living room floor. Tearful fights and eye-watering laughter. Kitchen dance parties and New Year’s Eve confetti.

And we planted two young maples in the backyard. Then watched them grow big enough for our boys to climb. We played kickball and soccer and tag and bean bags under their shade. Gathered with friends around the fire pit. Sled down the tiny hill to their trunks.

We did all of these things — and hundreds of thousands more — in that house. And somedays it felt like survival. Like getting through the day. And sometimes we held on to a moment, took mental snapshots to hold close later. And on all the days — the good and the bad and the tough and the easy — we watched those little boys learn and love and hurt and succeed and fail and become adults. Right before our eyes, whether we knew what we were witnessing or not.

And so, with the house empty, and Jay on his way to Bemidji with a truck full of our possessions — the refrigerator clean, the floor swept — I walked into every empty room, stood against every doorway, and in the silence, I heard the voices of 18 years.

“Will you sing me a goodnight song, Mommy?”

“Christian, let’s play rock-paper-scissors. You be rock. I’ll be scissors.”

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“Do you want me to read to you, Bergen?”

And I saw high chairs and scattered Legos and strewn books (“Read this one, Mommy!”) and favorite stuffed animals. I saw backpacks at the top of the stairs and shoes scattered on the foyer floor and band concert clothes thrown in the washing machine at midnight (“Can you wash this before tomorrow?”). Bunk beds and coloring books and running shoes and car keys. And I saw my favorite people in the whole world at 3 and 6 and 9 and 12 and 15 and 18 and every age between.

And then, with no more reason to stay, I sat in the car and stared at our home — at that front door and four bedroom windows, polished until they gleamed for the new owner — and I sobbed. Until it was too blurry to drive away. Even if I’d wanted to.

Jennifer Koski is associate editor at Rochester Magazine. Her column appears Tuesdays. Send comments to jkoski@rochestermagazine.com .

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