By Shelley Murphy
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year.
Preparations for our family’s celebration are underway, including displaying timeworn tiny turkey handprint crafts and planning the menu for our festive feast. Unpacking my treasured decorations from boxes and reading their thankful words written in crayon caused me to pause and give thanks.
I’m thankful both of my boys will be home for the holiday. I’m grateful that my family will gather under our roof—a roof we wouldn’t be sharing if it weren’t for my younger son. As an infant, his blatant disregard for naptime inadvertently led us to San Clemente.
One afternoon, long ago, my younger son’s refusal to sleep in his crib and preference for sleeping in the car, led me to nestle him in his car seat and drive south. In the mid-1990s, Zillow didn’t exist, so I’d use naptime to hunt for potential houses that could meet our growing family’s needs.
That destined drive 20 years ago steered me to San Clemente, where I stumbled upon a developing neighborhood. After discussions with a sales agent, she agreed to hold the lot I liked until the next morning.
My family and I returned at the appointed time and walked the dirt lot. At one point, my husband stood at the dirt lot’s southeast corner waving to me, as I stood at the opposite corner waving back, and our older son raced between us.
We didn’t know the term back then, but in that moment, we found our forever home.
Six months later, we moved to San Clemente with two toddlers, who turned into teens and today are 20-somethings.
Our boys are grown and have flown from the nest. Today, I find this fact prompts well-meaning friends to ask about our presumed plans to downsize. My husband and I have no desire to downsize or relocate.
Maybe it’s due to my upbringing. My mom and dad still live in my childhood home in Orange County, and my best friend’s parents still live across the street. Both our families have called the neighborhood home for more than 50 years.
I see the “for sale” signs pop up throughout my neighborhood; they are anchored in lawns announcing the last kid is off to college and now is the time to downsize.
For those on the fence and debating downsizing, there are some steps to help in the decision process.
First, answer these questions: Is there extra seating in your family room? (Yep.) Do closets contain clothing from grown children? (Yep.) Do you know what’s in your attic? (Nope).
I like to believe my attic is full of precious belongings and priceless memorabilia; but the thought of confirming my belief gives me hives.
Next, count the number of rooms in the family home that are used more than twice a week. Calculate the square footage of the rooms to then determine the total amount of square feet needed in the downsized dwelling.
In our home, we have vacant rooms and passing by them reminds me of my kids’ absence—sometimes it’s crushing, but most often it’s comforting.
I’ve lived in San Clemente, in our forever house, longer than any other address. Twenty years ago, standing on that dirt lot, I couldn’t imagine the deep roots we’d plant.
I found my footing in San Clemente, as did my boys. It’s where we enjoy enduring friendships, enriching community connections and energizing school spirit.
My boys spent their youth growing up in one home; it tells our story and holds our many milestones and memories.
I’m counting the days until my boys return home for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I’m hoping our tradition continues in the future as they establish households of their own.
Home is more than a place—it’s a feeling; and our nest, empty or full, feels the right size. And, for that, I am thankful.