Life is a series of milestones. Birthdays, promotions and purchases line the road we travel throughout our journeys, each acting as a barometer against which we measure our personal progression. Some pass without much fanfare or outside influence; a thirty-fourth birthday will get here whether we want it to or not. Others keep us moving, motivating us to keep chugging away. The next milestone for my family is the purchase of a new house. In just a few weeks we will hold the keys to the place where our boys will spend the majority of their lives until starting their own families.

We’ve been in our current house for just under seven years. Packing has already started. Each day we tape shut another box filled with pictures, toys, or clothes. We pull another bookshelf out of the basement, exposing a matted swath of carpet that hasn’t seen daylight for years. We will soon be standing at the threshold for the last time, every scrap of stuff we own loaded in the back of a big orange truck, ready to move forward into the next leg of our adventure. And when that time comes, I won’t be able to help but think about what we’re really leaving behind.

I’ll think about the work we put into it. The house needed some serious TLC when I bought it. As a single man in my late twenties, it was a perfectly acceptable bachelor pad. The kitchen was horrendously outdated, the bathrooms were straight out of 1991, the garage door and windows may very well have been as old as the house itself, and the roof wasn’t going to make it much longer. But I had time and wasn’t afraid to put some work into it. And it was mine. I bought it all by myself. Welcome to adulthood. It took the better part of six years, two kids and a persistent wife to bring those updates to fruition.

I’ll think about inviting Wife over to check out the new place, even before she was Wife, or even Girlfriend. About staying up too late watching movies we didn’t really care about just so we could spend time together.

I’ll think about drinking way too many beers and eating way too much barbecue with friends. About the mess of toys strewn throughout the house after they took their kids home for the night. (Don’t worry, our kids created their fair share of that mess.)

I’ll think about the tears that were shed. About two clueless new parents trying to navigate the choppy waters of sleeplessness and maybe, just maybe, saying a word or two they didn’t really mean. About two frightened children who don’t understand that what they just saw was a bad dream. About job offers that never came and unexpected bills.

I’ll think about the rain and snow and heat and wind that we were fortunate enough to avoid because we had a roof over our heads and four walls around us. About how incredibly thankful I am that Wife and I are able to provide a warm bed and food for our children. About how far too many children in this world are not so fortunate.

I’ll think about little feet toddling down the squeaky hallway, about trying to open a creaky door without waking anyone up, about the crayon marks on the freshly painted wall. About first steps and first words and first teeth, about the first time I heard our children laugh.

I’ll think about all the other laughs that were shared. About how one unexpected comment from a three-year-old melted away the stress of the week and turned the whole house into a cackling mess. About how farts are funny. About how parents can’t help but shed their inhibitions and maturity around a rambunctious toddler and dance like no one is looking.

A lot more than just stuff is packed in all those boxes in the garage; each one also carries dozens of memories, some still vibrant, others distant and faded. My kids, at roughly 2 and 5, may or may not remember much about their first home. It’s far more likely that they will look back fondly upon the memories we have yet to make together in the new house. And there will be plenty of staying up way too late and eating way too much food and funny farts and tears and laughs. But the seven years’ worth of memories made in the old house will always—always—hold a special place in my heart. It’s the place where our family started and where it became complete. And when I close the door for the very last time, I sincerely hope that the new owners are as blessed as we have been, that the love and happiness that we created  there will continue to grow for the next family.