There’s a house on North Mary Street just a few blocks from my home and a half block from my favorite café (the one that is forever stuck in the ‘90s and is almost always playing Alanis Morissette when I walk in) that went up for sale. This house was my dream house. Yes it was wall-to-wall carpet and a 1970s wallpapered nightmare but I saw the potential. It had a large backyard, detailed trim, built-in shelves, high ceilings, and we knew could make it our own. There was enough room for our family to grow in it and the large tree that covered the small balcony sealed the deal for me, so we made an offer.


However, a toxic situation at my husband’s job surfaced and he made the difficult decision to leave his position, which forced us to retract our offer the very next day. I was heartbroken. Not only were thrown into the chaos of navigating my husband’s newfound self-employment, but the circumstances also meant we had to stay in our current home.


This house had been my war zone for the last two years. So many hard memories in every corner that were so emotionally draining that they almost completely masked the good memories. I learned that I was walking through post-traumatic stress disorder from our dramatic foster care journey. And I became plagued with paranoia, terrified that my son’s birth family–who knew where we lived–were going to come and take him from us. I remember our neighbor’s sewage pipe bursting a few days after we had to say goodbye to our dream house. There was sewage all over their backyard; the smell wafted and the stench was so awful that it became the straw that broke the camel's back. I can’t possibly live here any more! And yet, we had no other option, in my mind we were stuck.


Time passed and two months later we got the news that our adoption would be delayed and we would once again have to fight for our son to stay with us. During that period of time this home suddenly became my safe haven. When we were waiting in the courthouse day after day, reliving our entire traumatic journey, all I wanted was to just go home. I was thankful for our tiny row house and how we were always so close to one another. The nearness, something that once was a main factor in my desire to move, had now become a magnet, pulling me into deeper community. I didn’t want to miss a moment without ‘my family’ right beside me.


I saw it all, the good and bad–the mess wrapped up in joy.


Our kitchen floor caught me when I felt like I could barely breathe, let alone stand, from the weight of all that was happening. As I sat there on the kitchen floor, the memories came flooding back. I saw my son running through the living room into the kitchen yelling, “Get your arms ready Mama, I’m coming to hug you!” When I heard the front door creak I saw friends and family piling in and prayers being said before they left. As I stumbled into the living room and gazed out the window I saw the sidewalk where our son learned to ride his bike with neighbors and strangers cheering him on alike. I saw it all, the good and bad–the mess wrapped up in joy. And I realized THAT is what makes a home, not old character or space. So, we put up our Christmas tree and twinkle lights and made every good memory count because we never knew if it would be our last with our boy. And later we would sigh a deep sigh of relief when we found out he would officially be ours, no more fighting.


I no longer want for that house on North Mary Street anymore, not even for a second. I’ll keep this house, war zone and safe haven–it’s all mine.

Lancaster, PA

Melissa's travels have taken her all over the world. She and her husband, Joe, have been on an epic adventure since the day they got married along the Nile River in Uganda over 9 years ago. Now living in Lancaster, they are finding joy in raising their son, K. Melissa has a huge heart for Child Advocacy, especially for children in foster care. In her spare time she loves to garden, write, and watch crime shows over bowls of cereal.