"Camping" inside a house

On the fourth of July in 1995, we made a whirlwind trip to Rapid City to buy a house. We wanted our children, who were 12 and 14 to be a part of the process. Moving them as they prepared to enter middle school and high school was a big decision and selecting which schools to attend and which home to purchase were things in which we wanted to take their needs and desires seriously. Our realtor was a member of the church to which I had been called as pastor. Susan would be applying for a position at the same church, but that had not yet been decided. We looked at homes a bit farther from the church than we had previously lived. In Boise, our house had been a mile from the church - easily reached by bicycle and not an inconvenient walk. This time we wanted a bit more distance so that our family life and our work life would have two distinct locations.

After viewing homes in several different parts of the hills, we narrowed the choice to a house just outside the city limits. Knowing that we would soon have teenage drivers in our home and that the high schools in Rapid City didn’t have bus service, we paid attention to the commute to school and to the church. Despite the holiday, we made an offer on the house and after an evening of watching fireworks from the home of one of the members of the church we learned the next day that our offer had been accepted. We headed back to Boise to pack and prepare for our move.

In the first part of August, Susan and I returned to Rapid City for the closing on the house. After a couple of anxious days learning that a wire transfer from the Savings and Loan in Boise wasn’t instantly deposited in our account in Rapid City, we were prepared to sign the loan papers and take possession of our house. Our furniture and possessions had been picked up by the movers and we had left our Boise home with the remainder of items. Our children stayed in Montana with their grandparents and our friends from Australia. It was just the two of us as we signed the papers and then headed out to the house. It was late afternoon by the time we got all of the details covered. We camped out in the house that night. We didn’t have a bed, and I can’t remember if we had our sleeping bags, or just a few blankets, but we slept on the floor of the room that would be our bedroom for the next 25 years. In the morning, we locked up our house and headed back to Montana to get our children and friends to return to move in.

Last night, 25 years and three months later, we camped out in the house again for our last night. We have already signed the papers on the deal to sell the house. The buyer will sign this afternoon and the house will no longer be ours. Our camping was a bit more luxurious than the first night we spent in the house. We have a bed, which will be left for the new owner. And we have enough groceries for breakfast before we put our suitcases in the car and head, once again, for Montana later this morning.

It has been a wonderful home for our family. It also is a bigger house than we now need. Those teenage children have become adults with families of their own. They now are the ones who need the space for growing children. When we talked about making this move, we spoke in terms of looking for a home that is about half the size of this house. We didn’t downsize quite that much. We have rented a home that is about 3/4 the size of this one. We’ll live in that house for a year while we get a feel of our new place and shop for the house that is the right place for us in this new phase of our lives.

We are going a bit slower on this trip, planning to take four days to get to our new home. I’ll be pulling a trailer with the last of the things from this house and we are likely to see some snow along the way. We’ll spend two nights in two different towns in Montana, dividing up the high passes into different days of travel.

As we walked around the house last night, peering into empty cupboards and closets, looking at the rooms with nothing in them, we shared a few memories. And, as we pull away this morning we’ll likely shed a few tears.

Like the move of 25 years ago, however, we have a sense that we are doing the right thing. Life doesn’t allow us to hang on to the past. We have a special goal in our minds as we travel. We’ll be thinking of Thanksgiving 2020, when our son’s family will come to our house to celebrate. Since they have had children, their family tradition has been to go to San Diego to celebrate Thanksgiving with his wife’s grandmother and other family members. But the coronavirus has meant that this is a year to take a break from that tradition - the risk of exposure of grandma is too high with people traveling from all over. So they won’t be taking a big trip. Instead they’ll be coming to our house. We’ve already ordered a turkey and we’ll soon be making sure that all of the favorite foods are prepared. Perhaps it will be a one year break from the old tradition. Perhaps we will start a new tradition.

Then we will be looking forward to Christmas and after that, in early February, we will have two weeks with our daughter and her family who will come to stay at our new home in the middle of a big move from Japan to South Carolina.

Here we are, between the past and the future in the moment of time that is ours. We’ll say farewell knowing that we will treasure our memories and that we will be returning to visit before too long. At the same time, we are looking forward to a new adventure and some very special moments with our family. The future is calling us.

Abraham and Sara set off from the land of their forebears not knowing exactly where they were going. It took a few generations for their descendants to discover the promised land. Out of their trip we got a family story that we’ve been telling for over 4,000 years. Who knows what stories will emerge from this part of our lives? Perhaps we’ll tell of the nights we camped out in an empty house in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!