Moving Out.

“Goodnight family.”

“Goodnight, see you in the morning.”

I turn on the ball of my foot and walk down the hall, passing the nook on top of the art cabinet where the cats eat and the two bookcases topped with outdated picture day portraits, as I make my way to my room. Boxes litter the floor and the shelves of my wall unit lay bare. I look in my closet where my shoes used to be and see a box marked accordingly in their place.

As I tiptoe across the carpet to my bed, careful not to wake my sister, packing tape sticks the bottom of my foot and I tear it off, noticing the mound of my dog’s fur already stuck to it. I smile and call to her quietly, knowing it will take a few seconds to hear the jingle of her collar as she jumps down from my parents’ bed and hustles across the hall. She never liked sitting on my bed, it wasn’t big enough, she usually lay on the carpet beside it when she found me napping on summer afternoons, but today she jumps right up next to me and sets her head in my lap.

A breeze sneaks in through the window, a rarity for a July evening, and I close my eyes as it fills the room with a cool layer of comfort. I lean my head back to rest against the wall and notice the lack of pushpins poking into my curly hair. I look up and see nothing but tiny holes that look like a connect the dot picture of décor’s past.

I look up at the ceiling, at the yellow patch we saw grow with each rainstorm until we got our new roof. For weeks my sister eyed the washcloth she’d pinned atop it, hoping it would hold and we wouldn’t have to set out any more buckets for leaks.

In the kitchen, someone takes a bowl out of the cabinet for a snack and my dog instantly awakens and runs down the hall to beg for a bite.

I get up and walk over to the blinds, looking at the night view between them for the last time as I twist them shut.

“Mom!” my brother shouts from his room, “have you seen my wallet?!”

I listen to their conversation, memorizing the echo their voices make off the walls before I get up to shut the door. With the click of the lock, my sister shuffles in her bed and takes a deep breath and I reach for the turtle figurine hanging from the ceiling fan to turn off the light.

I’ve done this a thousand times in the dark.

I know how many steps it is from the light to my bed to my dresser and back again. I know which plug behind my bed charges my phone faster and how to sneak back out the door almost silently. I know that the mysterious sound outside at midnight is the neighbor watering his plants in his underwear, and that the birds chirping in the morning have a nest above the garage. So as I lay my head on my pillow, I let everything I know wash over me like a breeze all its own. I remember every afternoon I came home to find my brother playing video games on the couch; I think of the different ways my parents open the front door, which always made it easy to tell which one of them was arriving home; I knock my fist against the night air, recreating the “secret knock” my family created to identify strangers.

It will be weird without them. Without my brother and my mom and my dad. It will be weird to have a room of my own and to not hear my sister occasionally murmur in her sleep. The world is going to seem bigger and I smaller as I go out on my own. There will be moments of sadness for the chapter that is ending, but there will also be joy with each turn of the page in the new one ahead of me.

So, as I close my eyes I say “goodnight” once more, but this time to myself. For tomorrow will bring new adventures, new challenges and new beginnings. It will bring new stories to tell and memories to share. New reasons to say hello and goodbye. And should the world ever knock me down, I know where I can find a red door on a corner house that asks only for a secret knock before it opens up to the people always available to pick me back up again.

The Things We Leave Behind



  1. Am I the only one bawling here??
    Congrats Kim!! 🙂
    I know that secret knock and hope to use it from time to time on your new door.(not without being invited of course!)
    love you!!
    Aunt Candee

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