One year ago today I moved out of my marital house.
For most of our year-long legal separation, my ex and I lived in different parts of the same house. It was partly to save money, partly because he was traveling for work and would be gone anyway, and partly because neither of us seemed willing to move out.
It wasn’t until we got in a fight one day last May that I realized I needed to move forward. An hour after the argument, I was touring an apartment complex. The next day I put down a security deposit. My move-in date was July 29.
I hired a moving company, and after a friend gave me the boxes from her recent move, I started packing. This time the military wasn’t helping with the move. I was on my own.
My ex and I had already walked through the house and split our possessions with little conflict. I spent the next 2 months packing on the weekends, a task that was both physically and emotionally exhausting.
Somehow I thought the process of placing items in boxes would be as easy as it sounds -- and some days it was. But there were other days when each item placed in a box flooded my brain with memories, both joyful and painful. The teacups we bought in Japan. The photo albums that spanned almost 15 years. The jewelry he’d given me, including the engagement ring that I had taken off so long ago that the once prominent indentation on my ring finger was now gone.
Some days I blasted music to drown out the memories. Some days I gave in and cried on the floor.
I finally finished packing a few days before the big day. I called to confirm my move-in date with the the moving company, finding it strange that they didn’t pick up the phone. I figured they were busy. After all, I live in a military town, and it was prime PCS season.
Then July 29 arrived. My brother flew halfway across the country to help, the kids were in camp and I was able to make a couple of trips to the apartment to start moving items before the movers were supposed to show up.
But the movers didn’t show up. I called repeatedly. No answer. At one point, I had to go back to the apartment for my Internet and cable hookup. By mid-afternoon, I had to face the fact that the movers weren’t coming.
While my brother somehow found a moving company that was available the next day, I drove to the address of my no-show guy to see if I could find this jerk in his office. I pulled into the parking lot to find a police car.
Turns out, the moving company I hired wasn’t really a moving company, but a thief the police were actively looking for. The policewoman said I was lucky he didn’t show because the chances were good he would have loaded my belongings onto his truck and disappeared with them in addition to my deposit he had already pocketed.
So instead of getting settled in my new apartment, I was filing a police report that led to a warrant for a man’s arrest.
I was devastated. July 29 was supposed to be my new beginning. Because of this crook, I had to bring all the bedding back from the apartment, remake all the beds, and spend another night in the house I had already said my goodbyes to. My new beginning was ruined, and I had to mentally prepare myself to spend my second last night in this house.
Fortunately, the next day the move actually happened. It took way longer than it should have, and my brother had to get on a plane halfway through, but by the end of the day, I was officially moved out of the old and into the new.
Shortly after the truck arrived at the house, a neighbor came over, another mil spouse asking if we were PCS’ing. (I hadn’t told her about the divorce. In fact, only one neighbor knew I was moving out. I still didn’t know how to tell people, and I just wanted to slip away quietly.)
“You’re getting divorced?” she asked, clearly shocked. “How long have you been married?”
“That’s a long time. You guys can work things out.”
“No,” I said, trying not to cry. “We can’t.”
She meant well, but it was statements like that I was hoping to avoid. The marriage was unfixable. It was time to move on.
When the last item was loaded onto the truck and my kids and the dog were loaded into my car, I did one last walk-through of the house. The items I left behind were just as telling as those I chose to take. The painting from Thailand. The obnoxious desk I once worked at. The dresser that was so oversized and heavy that it left gouges in the hardwood floor as the movers pushed it into position when we first moved in.
One last look. I said goodbye. And I closed the door for the last time.
People often ask me why I was the one who moved out. “You’ll have the kids more. Why don’t you get to keep the house?”
I’m sure life would have been easier if I had been the one to stay, especially now that my ex has moved to Hawaii and the house has new owners. Knowing how transient his life is with the military, it probably would have been more logical for me to stay.
But I didn’t want the house.
We lived in that house together for 5 years, a lifetime by military standards. But for many reasons, it never felt like home to me. That house saw too much. The walls held too many bad memories and too few good ones. I needed a fresh start. I needed to make my own home in my own way.
Moving out of that house was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But moving-out day was also moving-in day. So I can look back on that day with sadness as the day I moved out of the last house I lived in with my husband. Or I can see it as the exciting day that I moved into my new home, the home where so far good memories outnumber the bad.
As I re-signed my lease a few days ago, I realized that this is where my new life started. One year ago today was a day of new beginnings. I may not live here forever, but for now, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.