What does it mean to live for 16 years in one home?

by | May 28, 2021

Our Dobson Ranch home of 16 years closed today in the smoothest transaction we could asked for. Here is a Jenny-style reflection of 16 years of “Place”.

What does it mean to live for 16 years in one home? I moved a lot as a kid — 10 times between 6 and 16, so I’ve never lived anywhere this long. The longest I lived before here was six years, and I still have nightmares about that house. Everyone who is five months pregnant, pulling 18 credits in her last semester of college thinks that a month before finals is perfect timing to buy a house, right? That was me 16 years ago. And of course we had to immediately add a puppy to that adventure.

We bought this home in a market almost like the one now, repeatedly out-bid by cash buyers until a 26 year-old looked at this place while Joe was working and told him we should buy it by offering 6K over asking price. I admire the confident independence of that girl, and how much her husband trusted her. This home created five more Brackmans. Eighteen months of pregnancy, 23 months of breastfeeding, 19,000 diaper changes, 39 kids’ birthdays, 15 pets, and countless “firsts.” It was the home where kids spent 52 days wondering if their Daddy was coming back alive from the hospital, dog waiting at the window each night.

It was the home where I felt like I was an academic trapped in a stay-at-home Mom’s life, and too embarrassed to say that until I discovered that God created and loves my mind and what I have to contribute to the world at large in addition to my family. I can be proud of that. (And I am).

It’s the home where Five came in and four came out. The home of healing and hope became a home of horror, small children experiencing things I swore would never happen under our roof.

My fear fought to replace that danger with safety so hard it nearly destroyed me. The path of surrender was learning (as Eric says) “I’m a good Mom but I’m not a good God.” Meaning, I was assigning more power and responsibility to my role than I was capable of having. I’m not all-powerful, and I can’t heal a child. It was the home where I lost the same child not once, not twice, but three times. I told God that should be illegal to do to a mother. Some days I still feel that way.

Since then our family has slowly healed but the cracked scars remain. We have wanted to leave, start fresh, and we are cramped. Before we adopted, as we considered having two girls nine months apart, the first thing I said was “we need to give them their own rooms when they are teen-agers.” Well, we have three teens now. It’s the home where I learned that chaos and abuse are not the same thing. I moved here still afraid to say I had grown up in an abusive home. Much safer to say “I grew up in a chaotic home.” Much safer to say that until I am experiencing the chaos of raising infants and toddlers and then five kids six and under and this home is breaking everywhere left and right. Oh no that doesn’t feel safe anymore.

I have spent 16 years in this home trying to desensitize the sensory memories of “chaos and broken things.” I have grown to have a much higher threshold for chaos, now seeing it as indication of a rich and full life. But the symbolism of being surrounded by broken things, things breaking faster than we can repair them, is a constant intrusion. Very few people understand the depth to which my soul is eager to feel newness.

This has been the home not only where I learned I have PTSD, but then experienced at a debilitating degree, where sound was so physically painful we had to hire an executive nanny. I remember the January day where the kids were all playing joyfully and everything was going “fine” but my body was on fire from the internal chaos. Fear riddled me “if this is what I feel on a good day, what about the hard days?”

Probably what I feel happiest about is that my healing has come so full-circle that our home is a safe place not only for our four, but for others who have found a safe haven here. In stark contrast to several years ago when kids couldn’t have friends over because I couldn’t handle extra sound, now I am happiest when our home is loud and full of people. (Covid kinda ruined that, but we’re getting back on track…).

It’s been such a lesson in humility and also teaching me the TRUE meaning of safety. Teens can walk in our doors, and despite all the broken things, they sense safety, warmth, love. They don’t want to leave. The brokenness that tells me a story about my life tells them nothing. I learn from them. Success? Maybe. I haven’t poured much into the external beauty of this home because I’ve wanted so badly to leave. But I have poured deeply and passionately into the souls who live here, with lots of painful conversations and exhausting fun. As they’ve grown up I’ve grown up with them, learning I don’t have to be so scared or ashamed of broken things. That the girl back then who was made responsible for everything wrong and broken can get a break. I can’t fix it all anyway.

So we move on…grateful for it all. SDG

Jenny Brackman
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