The Couple That Left and Came Back

I haven’t written here in a long time. Because really, where would I start? “Hey guys! Remember me? I moved, then moved again, and then again…”

The thought of launching into the details of this saga has been completely paralyzing, so I’ve just avoided the blog all together. But I miss blogging, so I’ll give you a timeline and we will leave it at that:

August 2012: Moved from Pennsylvania to Scituate, MA. Lived in two rentals. Bought a house.

February 2014: Sold house and moved back to Pennsylvania. Bought another house.

August 2015: Sold that house and moved back to Scituate. Lived in three rentals. Bought another house.

I just can’t get into it you guys.

On Valentine’s Day, a Facebook friend re-posted a blog I wrote three years ago, just days before we moved from Scituate back to Pennsylvania. Reading it was intense, like watching your mistakes being played out in slow motion. There is one line in the blog that says “I know in the big picture, moving back to PA is the right decision.” You know, until a month later when you realize that it isn’t. Don’t you just hate when that happens?

Since moving back to Scituate, I often get this response when meeting new people: “Oh! I heard about you guys! You’re the couple that left and came back!”

Yup. That’s us.

So instead of diving into The Moving Trilogy, I am going to tell you a story about the couple that left and came back, inspired by a Whitney Houston song I heard on the radio yesterday.

One evening, about three years ago – during our first Tour de Scituate – I ran into a local liquor store for wine. When I came out and walked through the parking lot, I heard Whitney Houston’s “Didn’t We Almost Have it All” coming from the car parked next to mine. I glanced inside and saw a woman sitting in the driver’s seat, sobbing.

Oh man, I thought. She is definitely having a rough night.

I took my time finding my keys as I debated what to do, even though clearly there wasn’t anything I could do. I did consider giving her my wine.

I felt sad for the woman as I drove home. But if I am being totally honest, there was a little part of me that was relieved. That I wasn’t her. That I wasn’t sitting in the dark, crying in my car to the lyrics of an ’80’s pop princess. I was going home, to my family waiting for me in my big blue house by the ocean.

A year later, after we moved back to Pennsylvania, I was the one crying in my car. I cried in my car A LOT. What is it about a car that makes it so conducive to crying? Is it the aloneness? The close quarters? The song playing on the radio that seems to be speaking directly to you?

In high school, my friend broke up with her boyfriend at the end of senior year. She needed to have a friend in the car with her all summer, because if she got in there alone she would completely lose it. Driving while crying is like skiing in a blizzard with no goggles. It’s a safety issue.


Like my high school friend, being in the car alone consistently triggered the water works: in parking lots, in car line, in my own driveway. I even made a playlist called “Mixed Tape” for the sole purpose of car-crying. Whitney was not on the playlist, but you would be surprised at how many times Whitney is played on the radio, especially in grocery stores and hair salons. The song seemed to be following me, haunting me, reminding me of that relieved feeling I felt that night in the liquor store parking lot. The slightly superior voice that said, “Thank God that’s not me.”

Talk about karma.

This past Halloween we went trick or treating in our old Scituate neighborhood versus our new neighborhood, because that’s what our kids wanted to do. When the kids ran up the porch steps of my former big blue house, I hid in the shadows. Phil knew what I was doing and covered for me. I just couldn’t do it. Not yet. I gave myself props for braving the neighborhood at all and counted it as a win. The kids moved on to the next house and Phil came over to where I was standing in the street, next to the driftwood swing he had hung from a tree three years before. We walked down the street, the moon ahead of us, painting streaks of light on the water. As he reached out to take my hand, I started to sing:

“Didn’t we almost have it all….”

and he joined in: “The night we held on till the morning…”

And we laughed. Because while the moment was sad and poignant, we had to laugh, because we still do have it all. The difference is, now we know it. Back then, in the beautiful big blue house, we had it all but were too afraid of losing it, or messing it up, or not deserving it….so we could never really receive it or be grateful for it. I have come to realize that it is very difficult to be grateful when you are afraid.

Now, we don’t have to be as scared of of losing it or screwing it up, because we already did that. We lost it and then had to figure out how we lost it and how we could get it back. With this came a better understanding of what “having it all” really is. And it’s not the dream house, or the perfect job. It’s watching your kids run back and forth with their friends across the lawns, a sea of costumes and glow sticks. It’s walking down the street hand in hand, with the shared knowledge of what it took to get there.

Car-crying is therapeutic until it becomes masochistic. Eventually you need to be your own best friend and say: “Enough.” You turn off Whitney and put on Madonna. You take a deep breath and say, “Ok…now what?”

There is freedom in taking your lumps as a couple; in being vulnerable enough to own your collective mistakes and move on from them. You can care what other people think or you can be happy, and we chose the latter. Yes, we are the couple that left and came back. And with our return came a deep rootedness, both in my marriage and this place we choose to call home.

Which is why, if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.


23 thoughts on “The Couple That Left and Came Back

  1. “It’s walking down the street hand in hand with the shared knowledge of what it took to get there.” What a wonderful description of marriage Jess. Thanks.

  2. I am so so happy to see you back in my inbox!!!! I love how you write and your raw honesty about life …. I am facing some major life changes right now and I am afraid — of so many things, but mostly to look back and sing that song “when I had it all” … but when I did, I was alone …. I want that deep rootedness in my upcoming marriage — and I am hoping that with everything we are going through right now — it is coming. Many blessings to you and please keep writing this blog!

  3. Hey Jess….I so love your blogging, and I’m really sorry about the “car crying” but I can’t be sorry that you and Phil and your girls made that PA stop… gave me the opportunity to spend some quality time with some fabulous beings (yes, I am still referring to the Brauns!) . I truly hope that our paths cross again, even if only for a short time. ♡

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