we’re home

Earlier this month I called one of my best friends and was hysterical. I’m not sure exactly what I said, but I remember hanging up the phone, walking though a pile of boxes and crawling into my bed. I saw her two days later and she told me that her husband had heard me melting through the receiver and said, “I’ve only heard Jess like that once before.”

Thirteen years ago we had just moved into a hospital, facing the biggest fight of our lives. I’m not saying that this move compares to that hell, but the overwhelming exhaustion is comparable. The physical work took it’s toll on this middle-age, non-athlete and the emotional component I found far more brutal than I’d prepared for. Sorting through memories and packing up boxes was just the beginning.

We chose to move because it was time – because Clinton Avenue didn’t make sense for our family anymore. Four stories of living was just too much for our boy. It was too much for me. Too many stairs, too much space between the master bedroom and Jack’s, too many walls to hide Jack from our vision. Our morning routine would have me up and down the steps countless times and during the bad weather it would often take me ten minutes to get Jack from our front door, down the stairs, through the path and onto the school bus. We knew we needed a change, but we couldn’t help but feel that ALD was stealing another thing from our family — our dream home.

When we started looking, we didn’t know if we’d find something that would fit our family AND compete with our beautiful, memory-filled Clinton Avenue. Even after we found this house that checked all our boxes, I would wake up during the night with my heart racing, thinking that we were making a huge mistake. Lack of sleep, physical exhaustion, packing up way too much stuff tucked away in every nook and cranny of a turn-of-the-century home — before the move actually happened, I was a basket case.

Then came the move. It ended up taking three days and once the moving truck left our driveway I went to take a shower and realized that it was my first shower in the new home (no, I hadn’t snuck one in anywhere else). The next morning one of the movers stopped by to follow-up. When he saw me clean with some mascara on, he said, “Wow. I didn’t recognize you.”

That was three weeks ago and finally Speir Drive is starting to feel like home. We’re getting used to the new routine and appreciating that it is easier. Right now I’m sitting on the sofa in the living room, with light pouring in from the skylights. Jack’s in his room just steps away watching That 70s Show (his new fav). The master bedroom is just beyond Jack’s room so when Dan and I wake up in the night, we can glance into his room without getting out of bed. The living space is all open, everything we need is on this level and when the bus arrives in the morning, we just open the door and there it is. No steps, no need for even an umbrella.

Banana has a beautiful room upstairs, where there are also a couple of guest rooms, and the house has a beautiful yard with a pool. It’s lovely – perfect for our family and perfect for entertaining. Dan doesn’t like it, but I’ve been describing the house as a mullet – all business in the front and a party in the back;)

IMG_5482.jpg

IMG_5465

We loved Clinton. It was our dream house that we managed to make perfect year by year. It was filled with memories and I credit it’s walls for holding us together through some of the most difficult times of our lives. It was hard to say good-bye,  but I’m starting to feel like Speir Drive is going to feel like our dream home too before long. The boxes are almost empty and we’re heating up that pool so that we can start diving into making some new memories.

Happy Memorial Day!

Love, Jess

The Three P’s

Everyone knows that moving is a stressful experience. It’s the three P’s — Purging, Packing, and Paperwork. Is there anyone who really enjoys any of those activities, and all three at once is enough to send you over the edge!! … Continue reading

I Wanna Be Like Jack

IMG_4717

The daughter of one of my oldest/bestest friends reached out to me last week. She had an assignment to write a paper on a rare disease and chose ALD. Her thoughtful questions had me sharing details about Jack’s life. Questions about his diagnosis, experiences through transplant, returning to school and about what Jack’s life looks like now.

I always try to be honest when answering such questions. The idea that a high school student is spending the time to educate herself, and in turn, educated her teacher and her classmates, is valuable and I want to make sure the information I provide is accurate. And, after eleven years, I’ve shared the details enough that I’m usually able to write the words without focusing too much on the meaning behind them.

This week has been different. As I was writing, the words keep hitting me — but not in the way you might expect. As I was describing what Jack’s life looks like now, I kept thinking, I wanna be like Jack.

Let me explain.

I’m feeling rather overwhelmed. Putting our house on the market this month seemed like excellent timing. Our three story home is filled with rooms that we don’t use and Jack’s life would be far easier with fewer steps. Anna seemed excited about returning home from second semester to a new house, and I kept thinking it would be a wonderful distraction from my blues about Anna being away at school.

So we hired our dear friend/hotshot realtor, cleaned up our house and put it on the market. Within a week of listing, we were under contract (we were fortunate to have a lot of interest and ultimately sold to a beautiful young family from Brooklyn). So easy, but I guess I wasn’t really prepared for Part One of our moving project to be completed so quickly. I hadn’t thought too much about all the next steps – the inspections and lawyers and finding our next home. 

The other day, I took a break from digging up old paperwork and searching house listings to answer some questions about Jack’s life for my friend’s daughter. I looked over at Jack who was sitting on his favorite couch, his legs up on the ottoman and his dog by his side. He had a grin ear to ear. He doesn’t worry about home inspections or details like where we are moving in May. He just lives in the moment and knows that his team has everything covered. 

I could have felt sad as I wrote the long list of things that Jack can’t do, but all I could think about was how relaxed and happy he looked. Sometimes I wish I had a team that I could trust would take care of everything.

Sometimes, I just wanna be like Jack.

Love, Jess

Before you pick up the phone to send me a text trying to cheer me up — I’M OKAY — just a little stressed. I know that within the next few weeks, we will figure out our next move. It’s time to pass along our beautiful house to another family that will fill it with love and memories. And, it’s time for our family to start a new chapter. It’s going to be amazing  — and easy and flat. 

 

Coming Soon!

img_4586

Last week, I watched through our living room window as a man fought through the rain to dig a hole in our front lawn and place a sign. I knew it was coming, but it still took me by surprise. 

Coming Soon!

We moved into our home thirteen years ago and called it our “forever house”. We talked about how we would shine her up to match our dreams and enjoy our time there until we were ready for our golden years in Block Island or Florida. The kids were 7 and 5, and we imagined how they would learn to ride their bikes on Clinton Avenue and run through all the backyards with the neighborhood kids. Jack and Anna would go from elementary school, to middle school, to high school and finally off to college. It seemed so distant, but we pictured when our nest would become empty and we could periodically close up our home as we would travel the world, knowing that we’d always return to our beautiful center-hall colonial.

Thirteen years ago we didn’t know that within a year of moving in, Jack would start showing symptoms of a disease that would one day become a huge part of our family. We didn’t know that our future would be less about adventurous travel and more about doctoring and therapies. We didn’t know that one day, three stories of house would be more than our son would be able to manage.

So, we are selling our home before “forever”. We are selling because we are not living the life that we’d imagined thirteen years ago. We are not alone in selling our home. Many of our close friends are doing the same – escaping Essex County taxes or moving back to urban living or buying their dream homes in the country or on the beach. We, on the other hand, are looking to stay in the area, eager to find an easier home. One that is more Jack friendly – fewer stairs, open floor-plan. A house where JackO can roam free safely.

It’s not what we planned thirteen years ago and it’s a lot of work prepping to sell. There have been moments of panic/anxiety (and plenty of tears), but mostly we’re excited about this change. Our house is beautiful, but there are rooms we never use, but still heat and cool. There’s a lovely yard that is only used by our doggies. And, most of all we feel that the house is ready for her next family. It’s time to pass her on. 

Still . . .

Every time I look out the window and see that sign, I feel my stomach tighten and I think of letting go of our “forever house”. It goes on the market officially next Wednesday and then there will be a flurry of open houses. People coming through to see if it matches their dreams the way it did ours thirteen years ago. Fingers crossed that we sell quickly. I really don’t want to play the “make all the beds, vacuum the dog hair, and hide the diapers” game for too long. And, once we sell our beautiful house, we can find our next “forever home” where we will stay forever … or at least a few years.

Our realtor/friend asked us to write a note to perspective buyers. Let me know what you think.

Thirteen years ago we told our realtor that we wanted to find the “big sister” of our center hall colonial on Jefferson Avenue. Something a little grander, a little roomier. We fell in love with this house before walking in the front door. We’d lived in Maplewood for seven years and Clinton Avenue was one of our favorite streets. It’s quiet, but close enough to town that we’d never need to drive to the village or the train. It’s a street where our children could roam and ride their bikes down the hill without any risks except bumping into a friend. And, the front door, wide and stately, told us that this house was going to be the perfect fit for our family.

We’ve been here now for thirteen years and it’s time for our next adventure, but it’s going to be hard to say good-bye to 26 Clinton Avenue. She’s been good to us. She’s hosted family holidays so large that we’ve added one table after another – from the dining room, through the center hallway into the living room. She’s hosted many, many parties where we’ve used every pot on the pot rack and guests refused to leave the kitchen. And, I trust that neighbors will share the our deck and lower patio have hosted many an event that lasted way too late into the night (it’s a wonderful, understanding crew on Clinton Avenue).

We’ve raised our kids and added two dogs to the mix while we’ve lived at 26 Clinton Avenue, and the memories we are taking with us are plentiful. At 109-years-old, this house has a history and has taken care of many families. Our hope is that the next crew that calls her home will love her as much as we have. 

Love, The Torreys

Cross your fingers, light some candles, and send some good vibes!!

Love, Jess