Monday, June 23, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

We've never been a couple to lament what our daughter is doing when we're away from her. With the exception of those first few weeks when we were settling into her being in daycare, we've actually embraced our time alone together, childless, whenever the rare opportunity has presented itself. Weddings. Weekends. Whatever. Our marriage - every marriage - needs 'us' time.

In fact, I get more upset leaving Luna behind. I just know the Peanut is going to be alright. She's resilient, she's easygoing, she's human. Luna is the one I worry about. Will she eat without us? Will she poop without us? Will she be happy without us? I can't explain it, but my first pet gets more babying than my first baby.

So it surprised me on the day before our move, when we shipped Peanut off with my mother-in-law, same as we do whenever we need or have a weekend away, that I got emotional.

It was puzzling, yet simple to explain. In that moment, as we strapped her into her car seat and she looked at us and waved bye-bye, I realized something so profound in its finality that I became overwhelmed, a sobbing mess: She will never step foot in this building again. That's it. The only home she's ever known her entire little life, left behind in the rear view mirror. We were staying to pack those annoying final dozen or so boxes and then ultimately move to our house. She was gone. Her last moments, her last memories, her last meal in our condo were already in the past.

And that's why I became so emotional. It was her first 'last.' For all of the times over the past few months that we said we were 'so ready' to leave Hoboken for more space, a backyard, a driveway, an easier daily routine, I was finally sad. Not because we were leaving, but because she was leaving. It wasn't doubt, just sadness. For the end of an era. Not in our lives, but in hers. Peanut: Born in the city, raised in the suburbs.

Soon our condo, the first 15 months of her life, will be a distant blur. The place where we became a family. Where we brought Luna home and house-trained her and spoiled her so rotten she now sleeps in the bed with us and only poops when one of us - not someone else - walks her to certain spots. The place where we hosted our first family Christmas Eve - a big deal to the Italians. Where we purposely painted the second bedroom a bright yellow knowing in the backs of our minds that someday far far away we will have a child, even though we were in utter denial and insisted it made this windowless room feel 'brighter.' No color could have made that room as bright as the the little girl who inevitably inhabited it. Despite its measly 920 square feet, that condo became our home.

Great gates
But Peanut has quickly long forgotten its claustrophobic charm. Now she has room to roam, even tough we now employ wonderfully clever contraptions known as baby gates, to keep her away from stairs and contained to one part of the house. She has several play areas now. And runs around the backyard barefoot, a little Jack Johnson chasing the dog and laughing. Her room has not one, but two windows. And even though I'm not crazy about the periwinkle blue it's painted, she loves her new big bedroom.

One song played over and over in my head as we moved that June Saturday. Peanut's ability to adapt to her new home without a blink makes the refrain from that song even more appropriate than I first thought when I was singing it as a joke to mask my emotions about leaving the only place my wife and I have lived for the past nine years:

"It's the end of the world as we know it... and I feel fine."
She feels fine... and has settled in nicely

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