the house that built me


tomorrow morning is one i’ve dreaded for more than a year. i keep saying that the hard part is over now that goodbyes have officially been said, but ultimately i find myself awake in the middle of the night again, thinking about what’s to come and the unbearable and yet self-inflicted change that’s happening next.

tomorrow is the day we hand over the keys to the house where i grew up, the house my parents have owned for 25 years.

i should start by saying that leaving 549 burrage road is a blessing. it means that my parents can finally build their dream home on a lake and look forward to the next chapter of their (our) lives. there’s no sadness in that. it’s so great, in fact, that it seems surreal. and right now we’re in the surreal in-between where there’s no new home, but no old home either. no kitchen where i’ve spent nearly every thanksgiving of my life, no bedroom that holds my american girl dolls or the pink scratch-and-sniff smiley face sticker on my doorknob, no wall with the hole where my brother tried to make a secret portal between our rooms when we were kids.

i’ve dreaded it for months, but this week i’ve spent so much time thinking about this transition and there are way too many thoughts swirling in my head for one blog post. for starters, i can’t understand what it is about leaving this house that’s so difficult. i will always have memories of my life there. as my brother likes to say, we’re not selling those. my family members are all still very close. giving up this house really doesn’t mean i’m relinquishing anything but empty rooms and blank spaces. i know that the things that make a home aren’t the walls or the paint or the curtains. it’s not the space but the life lived within it.


and despite all that, i can’t sleep tonight. my chest hurts when i think about strangers filling those blank spaces with their things, their lives, their memories. selfishly i want to keep those spaces sacred and mine. i hate that they might not love them the same way i did. that they might cut down the cherry tree in the yard where we took easter pictures, or remove the bar in the kitchen where my dad still makes me coffee on the mornings i’m there, or rip out the retro “hugs not drugs” bumper sticker on the wall inside my brother’s closet.

i know i am a person that feels things deeply, and generally i’m both thankful for and annoyed by that fact. i hate that things and places evoke such deep emotions within me. if they didn’t, i could walk away from this house much more easily than i have. (and i could have thrown out the 39,084 stuffed animals from my childhood that my parents patiently agreed to let me keep in their new garage.) it’s a characteristic i find impossible to describe to anyone who can’t relate. i envy those people who can’t relate. i know intellectually that a house is just a house, but that doesn’t change the emotional connection i feel to it. i became a person within those walls. no matter who those walls belong to in the future, it won’t change the fact that they surrounded me during all of my becoming. they’ll always be a part of me and i of them, and no intellectual reasoning (no matter how rational) can change that.


i always find change to be a mystery because i hate it and yet i desire it. the leaving behind is always difficult. but, in its infinite paradox, not nearly as difficult as the staying-put. and in this surreal in-between, i’m infinitely grateful that saying goodbye to this house is as difficult as it is, because it means that my life there was well-lived. those blank spaces were filled with everything that a childhood and a family and an abundant life are supposed to be. while the staying-put in this house for the last 25 years has meant the leaving behind of so many other things; in all of those transitions, my family and i have become more and more of the people we were created to become, both together and apart. and that’s really always the goal, isn’t it? i am incredibly thankful for the role that 549 burrage road played in our stories and for an unchanging Father who always calls us forward into the unknown. His best is always before us.

photos 1./2. joe hartsell 3. drawing by aaron cote of ga studio drawings

One Response to “the house that built me”

  1. laurie crowell says:

    dear chelsea. wow, what a beautiful tribute to your famiy home. you have captured so wonderfully and poignantly the joy and bittersweetness of leaving behind, not the physical part of a home( and yes, that too) but the depth and richness of family and relationships and the making of each person. you and yur family are leaving pieces of your heart behind, yet, those pieces enrich the soil of your heart now and will grow a harvest in the days, months and years to come. love you girl