“We have to go now,” she said, checking over her shoulder for what felt like the millionth time.

She turned to her husband. “It sounds so trite, but it really does seem like we just moved here. I wouldn’t say it feels like it was yesterday… maybe more like it was a few months ago, but definitely not over a decade. I can’t believe we’re moving”

Her husband rested his arm on the broom he’d been using to sweep their now empty apartment. He looked tired. They were both tired.

“A lot of life happened in this place,” he said, taking his hat off to fan himself. They’d been packing and cleaning all weekend. They had to be on the road by noon to make it to their new house by bedtime.

Almost on cue, their four-year-old daughter walked in the room, dragging an old pull toy she hadn’t played with since she was a baby. “Mommy,” she said, rubbing her eyes. “I’m tired. When are we leaving?”

“Soon, Love. Really soon.”

Their move was as nondescript as the suburb they were leaving for. Over time, what were once slight tugs had now turned to full-forced pulls toward family. Their own memories of after school snacks with grandma and Sunday dinners became central themes in conversation. The nice life they’d carved out for themselves—just the three of them—somehow seemed sweet, but empty. They hadn’t stopped to consider if those memories were just as saccharine. It didn’t matter now, though. A good parent is a good daughter; a good son. You have to do what’s right for your kids and do right by your parents. What’s right is all about sacrifice anyway… right?

So here they were, the family of three uprooting their life to tend again to the roots they hoped were viable. It didn’t feel as exciting as what had brought them to this place. Back then they were young, carefree, their whole lives ahead of them. Leap and the net will appear indeed. Now it was more of a cautious step, a slow walk in the direction of doctor’s offices and drives to the post office. Church potlucks and senior citizen centers.

Watching parents age is a sad parallel to the awe of watching children grow up. Moving closer meant witnessing it first-hand instead of sometimes fleeting concern from a distance. Maybe the upside is that the sharp teeth of guilt wouldn’t gnaw so fiercely. The slow march of obligation first starts between the metal walls of a moving truck.

She wiped a tear from her eye.

Her daughter never misses anything. “Mommy, I know you’re sad. But we just have to leave. We have to move closer to Grandma and Grandpa.”

She stopped herself from saying anything else. They didn’t have to leave. They didn’t have to do any of this. But she couldn’t confuse her daughter. She had to remind herself that she was only four. If you can’t be strong for yourself, be strong for her, she thought.

“Yes, Mommy is sad. But you’re right. Grab your jacket and your toys. We have a long drive.”

She opened the door for the last time in that little apartment; the threshold that knew every story of their marriage.

She gave her husband a hug, holding back tears again.

“I’ll see you at home,” she said, the door closing gently behind her.

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