Colors of his home, by numbers

We moved recently. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Moved. One breath gets it out.

Though isn't it one of the three biggies of upheaval (in the course of a normal life, that is)? Getting married, changing jobs, moving? Yes, I believe it is. So not a small deal for anyone. But to me... to me it was a huge deal.

We found our first house right around the time I was finally pregnant. Two years after tossing the birth control pills, and nearly at the end of my fucking wits, finally pregnant. Not for long, though, not for long. A miscarriage, a fucking bloody mess. By the time we signed for it, some months later, I was pregnant again, just a touch further along than the gestational age when the miscarriage happened. On progesterone this time, pretty sick, but cautiously optimistic. We didn't move in for a few months still-- the old owners rented from us for a bit, and then we renovated. And then we moved and had no furniture, and my family came for the first Thanksgiving in our new place, and Monkey kicked in a way that could be felt from the outside for the first time the day before they showed up, so JD got a day of it all to himself before the hordes came and wanted their turn. It was good time. Busy, crazy busy, but good.

We hosted New Year's at the new house too. And I spent some hours of that night in my office with a couple of friends giving me tips on the thesis defense presentation I was preparing. And then my parents came again, and I defended, round and needing to use the bathroom, and I passed, and I was a PhD. And the next day I bled bright red in the mall and ended up in the hospital on bed rest. Partial placenta previa. It was scary again a few times, but in the end she was born safe and sound on her very due date, and we went home two days later.

The house was never huge, but by the time I was pregnant with A it was starting to feel cramped.  That Thanksgiving, our sixth in the house, we moved Monkey out of the tiny baby room into what was previously a guest bedroom. We painted and bought her a bunk bed. She was looking forward to her baby brother's arrival, and she wanted him to share the room with her just as soon as he could. So I spent some time agonizing over whether to buy the girly bedspreads for the bunk beds or more neutral ones, and a friend told me to go with girly because I can always switch to neutral when he moves into the room, or even let each have their own. We painted our bedroom then too-- a lovely deeper green. I was very proud of choosing both color schemes.

A's room didn't get painted until a week before he died. It had to be painted, you see, because light purple and yellow that Monkey had in there didn't look boyish enough. The same friend (my best female friend from college, my color guru, and a few other things besides) helped me pick the blue and the new shade of yellow.

When we got home from the hospital, empty-wombed and empty-handed, I shut the door to that room. The morning of the funeral, before walking down the stairs and out of the house, I opened it, and cried in the doorway. I shut it again after, for a few more weeks. We didn't use that room much until the Cub came to fill it more than eighteen months later. But at least after a while I could walk in there.

What did change though was my feelings about the house. Where before it was starting to feel cramped, now I couldn't imagine leaving. This was the only house in which my son lived in me, the only house my son was ever supposed to live in. This was the house that stood ready to welcome him. I couldn't leave that house now.

Three and a half years later I still couldn't think of leaving. But by then the house was really starting to put a squeeze on us. Toys were everywhere, and the moment you didn't pick up and put away one little thing, a pile of things big and small grew around it. And yet, I couldn't think of leaving. Then one day a house down the street, literally three doors down, went on the market. And then JD asked wouldn't it be cool if we could buy it and move there and have my sister and her husband (and their baby on the way) move into our current house. Turns out that was the only way that I could really deal with leaving-- if we were not entirely leaving.  Things went very fast from there. We saw the house, we liked it, we put in an offer. Two weeks and much negotiation later, we had a deal.

It was logistical insanity, pure and simple-- trying to move us and then my sister before her due date, in the middle of my first semester of solo teaching, in the middle of trying to apply for other jobs. It was insanity. But now it's mostly done, and I am typing this in my comfy chair in the family room of the new house. Neither we nor they are completely unpacked, but my nephew is here, and we walk to each other's houses. Which was the whole point. But not the whole story.


When we first saw the new house, one thing was very clear-- the room that was to be Monkey's would have to be painted. It was pink. And not the kind of pink that is a bit off white. The kind of pink with conviction. One wall in particular, but the other three only slightly less so. And Monkey was by then years past her pink phase. She wanted blue, and by rights couldn't possibly be made to live with pink (and neither could I, so it's all good). But we thought that was the only room that would need painting-- some of the other colors in the house were not my favorites, but certainly not something that needed to be fixed post haste. Even the baby room, the one that would be Cub's, when we first saw it looked like it was a nice subtle shade of forest green, and we thought that was kinda nice. But when with a few weeks left to closing we went to measure a couple of rooms, the owners have started moving out. And without the crib and blankets in the room it turned out that the walls weren't forest green-- they were dirty beige.

Suddenly I wanted to paint that room. And the minute I knew I wanted to do that, I also knew that there was only one set of colors I was interested in-- the very same blue and yellow of the room that was painted for A nearly 4 years back.

I thought I would be fine, see. We'd be just down the street, and family would still be in that house, in that room. His cousin now, like his brother before. My dad was coming, to do a bunch of work on the house for my sister, but they weren't going to paint the baby room. That warmed me up, made me grateful-- all of our boys, see, they would all have that room, those colors in common. And I thought that would be enough.

But it wasn't. I knew now I wanted to take those colors with me as well. I knew how to get that done too. We weren't going to use the same kind of paint this time, but I had high hopes for the awesome powers of color matching computers. The way paints are mixed in the stores is by adding correct amounts of primary colors to white and mixing. You know, in those giant paint-mixing drums they have. And the way they match any color you want is by scanning a sample and having their computer figure out which primary colors go into that one in what proportions. So we brought the cans with leftover paint to the store and asked them to match. I am sure the nice men in the paint department that day had not a clue why I needed to match the colors so very precisely. But I spent a long time there, checking and rechecking and checking again. In the end, I had my new paints. I thought the yellow might have turned out too bright, but the blue was spot on, and somehow of the two that one was more important to me.

And even then, with hours spent in the paint store, even then I thought it was mostly about how yucky that beige was. With some amount of bravado I told my sister about the new plan, and added that she didn't need to psychoanalyze this decision-- I knew what I was doing, and I wanted to do it anyway. It turns out, I was only half right--what I didn't know was how desperately I wanted to do it.

The way I found out was that JD suggested not taking down the border previous owners had in the room-- it was kinda cute if rather monochromatic, but it did have elements of blue, and JD thought it would work with our colors. And I felt my throat close. Anxiety. Cold, shaking anxiety. I walked around with it for about a day and then told him no, I can't handle it-- the border has to go. No problem. The border went. And I exhaled, a little.

My dad painted the Cub's new room, like he did just short of four years before for A. Just like he laid the hardwood in the Cub's room while we were in NICU-- because I wanted there to be a change between the boys, but a small change, and changing the old yucky carpet for (fake) hardwood fit the bill. I saw the room take on the colors, and I remembered that when A's room was first painted, the yellow looked too bright too. I smiled.

A while ago I told Angie in the comments here that because of the peculiar dynamics of my family, I couldn't wish for A to hang around my house, that that would feel like tying him down, like making him comfort me. But what I realized in the process of moving and painting was that I wanted to feel like A still had a home with us, that if he wanted to, he could hang around our house. And I know that has nothing to do with whether we kept a space that was recognizably his, but somehow it makes it more tangible if we do.

Our first night sleeping in the house, I lit one of my giant candles in the jar, and I thought "Welcome home, little one."


Of course, in a sort of funny throw-your-hands-in-the-air coda to the whole thing, when my brother in law went to touch up the baby room in the now-his house, he discovered that time isn't often kind to paint, and that nearly four years will sometimes do uncool tricks. The touchups were so clearly seen on the walls, especially on the blue, that it no longer looked like the same room. We showed it though-- dad used leftover paint from the new house to put a layer over those touch ups. The colors were matched after all. So now the cousins, have the exact same shades in their rooms. All sorts of fitting, no?


 Do you have signifiers of awaiting your baby in your home? What are they? Have you moved since the death of your baby? Are you thinking about it? Have your feelings about a potential or real move changed? If you are firmly in the same place, can you imagine leaving it now?