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Two tiny keys sat on the kitchen counter of an otherwise empty house.

To anyone else in the world, they would be just that—keys.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

But as I grazed my fingers across their cool metal one last time, I choked back a sob, knowing it would be the last time I held them in my hands.

Moving houses is a fact of life.

I knew from the moment I first obtained those keys that I would one day be passing them on to a new owner. Still, nothing prepared me for the gut-wrenching pain that came with saying goodbye and letting go.

I wondered why, with such a magnificent adventure ahead of me, I couldn’t help but keep looking back.

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Was it the house itself that I was so attached to?

Sure, it was beautiful. But there are many beautiful houses in the world, and I’m getting ready to build the most beautiful one of all. The house of my dreams.

Was it the neighborhood?

The schools were great and the crime was low. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have the most amazing neighbors a mother could ask for.

It was truly a blessing and a privilege to raise a family there.

And that’s when it hit me. The reason I was having such a difficult time letting go was the very same reason I was striving so hard to push forward.

My family.

Because a house is just a house . . . until you start a family in it.

As I walked through the empty rooms one last time, a monsoon of memories flooded over me.

I stepped across the same threshold I used to welcome my babies home. I touched their handprints in the cement on the back patio and took a moment to sit in silence in the same spot I would rock them through all hours of the night.

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From first steps to first words to the first day of school, that house saw it all.

Every special moment that impacted my motherhood was tied to that space. And although I know I will carry the memories on with me, I also know something stayed within those walls.

A special kind of memory that’s not for me but for the house itself.

We entered a family of two and left a family of four.

And although I am so excited to build the memories that will come along with our next home—our forever home—I can’t help but grieve the loss of this one. It’s an ache I’m sure I’ll feel for quite some time to come.

Because it’s easy to leave a house.

But it’s so much harder to leave a home.

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Kayla Runkel

Kayla is a former marketer turned stay-at-home-mom to two sweet boys. You can follow her blog, The Rustic Hideaway, or her writing page, K.C. Runkel. When she is not writing, Kayla loves teaching fitness classes, reading books, and spending time with her husband and sons exploring her favorite place in the world, Wyoming. Or as she simply calls it: home.

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