Moving On: Saying Goodbye to Our First Home

I became a mother in December 2011 and we brought our daughter home from the hospital to a condo in North Liberty. We had only lived in Iowa City five months when she was born. Although it felt like home to us then, it wasn’t until we bought our first house, one year later, in Iowa City that I felt like we had really laid down some roots.

It was in this house that I learned who I was as a mother, and we made some of our best memories.

An image of a first home
Photo credit: Jade Boyd, Sage + Stone Studios

We lived in that house for almost seven years.

Our daughter had just turned one when we moved in to that one-story, three-bedroom ranch. In fall 2018, we began talking about what it might look like to buy a new home that might offer more room and meet the needs of our growing children. In summer 2019, we found a lovely house in Coralville and the gears began turning for what would become a busy fall season for us.

On April 6, we closed on the sale of our east-side ranch. It is bittersweet. I love our new home so much. It is a perfect fit for our family. When friends visit our new house they often comment, “this house is perfect for you!” We agree and we have had fun making this new house into our home. But this home doesn’t have the mental photo album of memories and learning experiences that our old house does.

For that reason, our east-side ranch will always be very special to me.

It was our first house — the biggest purchase my husband and I had ever made at that point in our marriage. It felt magical to walk through the door as homeowners for the very first time. And although I didn’t bring my first baby home from the hospital to our east-side home, I did bring my second baby home to it. It was inside the beige walls and underneath the popcorn ceiling of that home that I found my identity as a mother. I learned how to balance the needs and wants of my children while grasping to my own identity as a person. It wasn’t easy, but those walls lovingly watched me come into my own as a mother and cheered me on the entire way.

Now we say goodbye.

I don’t personally know the new owner of our home, but I deeply hope he loves that house as much as we did. This letter — which I am sure he will never read — is my personal plea to treat our cherished house well, an ode to the experiences of motherhood and my way of saying goodbye to our beloved east-side ranch.

Dear New Homeowner,

Are you excited? I bet you are. I don’t know if this is the first house you’ve ever owned or not, but it was mine. I wonder if you are tingling with excitement as you walk over the threshold for the very first time. I was. Do you know how special this place is to me, new homeowner? So many memories were made in these rooms. Laughs have bounced off these walls. Tears have fallen to these floors. Love could be felt in every square foot.

I hope you appreciate the large landing on the front steps. That landing has been home to pumpkins, mums, bottles of bubbles, watering cans, spring flower pots, and about seven different welcome mats. I’ve sat on those front steps with my kids waving to neighbors or watching my little ones ride their bikes.

Be nice to the bamboo hardwood floors. My daughter took her first steps on that floor. So did my son.

A living room in a first home
Photo credit: Jade Boyd, Sage + Stone Studios

That one wall in the living room is where our TV hung. I have spent hours staring at that wall while I watched every single episode of the entire series of Everybody Loves Raymond as I nursed my son. Every single episode. That means I have spent A LOT of time staring toward that textured wall. I wonder how much time you will stare at that wall, and for what reason.

The seat in the bay window is much more than just a window seat. It has been a cozy nook for reading and the site of unending pretend-play. That seat was the spot where my kids would lay and watch the snow fall or admire daddy while he mowed the lawn. My son has definitely stood naked in front of that huge window. New homeowner, I hope you will not do the same.

That window seat also served as a “time-out” more than once, and I found myself learning how to discipline my children using both logic and love as I sat in that seat holding them and talking to them about their behavior.

New homeowner, I hope you have many delicious meals in the dining area. We’ve eaten hundreds of meals there. My daughter learned how to make my grandmother’s German lemon sugar cookies in that dining area. My son had his first taste of solid food in that dining area. If you find a board game piece in the heating register next time you clean them, that’s from us. We loved playing board games there.

If you look out the windows of the dining area you will see a few rose bushes lining the driveway along the fence. Those are knock-out rose bushes and my kids gave me those for Mother’s Day a number of years ago. I planted them with love and gratitude. Don’t feel pressure to keep them alive. They’ve served their purpose and filled my heart with love each spring when they bloomed. But, oh I hope you see them bloom. They are bright pink because my daughter loved the color pink.

Confession: There used to be four rose bushes, but now you’ll see three. I ran one over with my mini-van. I apologize you have one less rose bush to love.

See the cupboards below the stove in the kitchen? When I was staying home with my kid’s two-days a week I used to sit there, on the floor, hiding in plain site from my children who were playing around the corner in the living room. Those were the days when things felt especially hard. I would lean against that cupboard and wonder if what I was doing mattered or if anyone cared that I was working so hard, and doing the best I could as a mother. For the record, it mattered. And whatever you spend your time doing in that kitchen will matter too.

A kitchen in a first home
Photo credit: Jade Boyd, Sage + Stone Studios

This kitchen is a place where I’ve kissed boo-boos and applied Band-Aids. I’ve cried to my husband when work had been hard or I hadn’t felt appreciate in our marriage. This kitchen is a room where we’ve forgiven one another, danced to our favorite songs, and laughed until we cried. I hope you dance in the kitchen, too.

The bathroom is where both of my children learned to pee on the potty. I’m sure you’re potty-trained new homeowner. But maybe you’ll potty-train you’re children in that bathroom. Good luck and bring disinfectant.

The hallway to the bedrooms has echoed with goodnight songs and “I love yous” while simultaneously serving as a daytime raceway for matchbox cars, a dinosaur battleground, or a princess tea party. The hallway is really quite versatile. You’ll see.

A porch in a first home
Photo credit: Sage + Stone Studios

Through the backdoor you see into the screened-in porch. We’ve had picnics on this porch and let our kids stay up past their bedtime so we could watch the fireflies in the yard while sitting here. I can tell you that pancakes taste best when eaten in your pajamas on a cool summer weekend morning on that porch. Give it a try.

If you look toward the back of the yard you can see two cedar garden beds. Those are new. We used them for one season. But it was enough time to see plenty of joy and delight on my children’s faces as the seeds they planted peaked through the dark soil. I’ll never forget watching my kids “help” hold the watering can with my husband as we watered all of our seeds for the first time last summer. I’ll always remember the look on my daughters face when the first tomato turned red.

I know this house will hold different memories for you, and you will learn different lessons here. I don’t know what experiences this house has in store for you. What I do know is that we’ve filled this home with love for almost seven years and the best I can hope is that you feel that love radiate off the walls onto you as you begin your life in our beloved east-side ranch.

Don’t take for granted what a special place this house can be. Take care of it, new homeowner.

With love,
Linda Varvel

If you are looking to buy or sell a home in Iowa City, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Moving to Iowa City.



Linda is a Michigan native who moved to Iowa City in 2011 and hasn’t left yet. She and her husband of twelve years, Jacob, have two spunky kids – a kindergartner and a third grader. Linda works full time at the University of Iowa as the Administrative Director for the Medical Scientist Training Program. Together, Linda and her family enjoy cheering for the Nebraska Cornhuskers (shhhh!), going on adventures both big and small, and playing board games (they have over 100 and will play with anyone they can talk into it). Linda is often told she has two volumes: on and off, and she will enthusiastically respond to any news you tell her. No matter the volume she uses, Linda is an “old soul” with a love for baking, embroidery, and old movies.


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