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A note to my realtor: My front door may be dated, but my home is full of family memories.

If a buyer objects, tell her the beveled glass casts rainbows on the stairs that her toddler will follow as the sun rises.

Courtesy of Caroline Stowell

I’m not replacing the front door, I tell my realtor, just because you think it’s dated. If a buyer objects, tell her that the beveled glass casts rainbows on the stairs. Explain that her toddler will follow them as the sun rises throughout the morning. Don’t get misty-eyed as you describe this — that will make the buyer uncomfortable.

Still, I need to put my grief somewhere.

Any buyer will love the high windows over the staged king-size bed in the master suite. Wonderful light. Exquisite flooring and cathedral ceiling. But can you also describe how the room fits two sets of bunk beds flush against that wall, leaving plenty of floor space for exactly one million, fifty-two thousand, and one Legos? (The one being the one you step on.) Let them picture the 5-foot tall teddy bear in the top bunk, smiling at them, begging to be fought over at bedtime.

The second bedroom will make a cozy guest room, plenty of space for visitors or an expanding family. Still, make sure buyers notice the Japanese maple out the front window. That room is like a treetop oasis. Never mind the college kids across the street. A white noise machine will do the trick. Otherwise, the room is fairly insulated from house noise, so it’s best if any future children play Kidz Bop 40 on the living room TV quite loudly at 6 a.m. so the buyer doesn’t miss the joyful jumping.


The tiny office at the end of the hall fits a twin bed with bedside table, if you can believe it. If not that, it fits a crib and a changing table, or a crib and a mini-crib for twins. All combinations have been tried. All combinations were my favorite.

Tell them they must never enlarge the dining room. Keep it snug so that they have to climb over each other to get around to the back seats. Two high chairs fit if you set the table on an angle. Feng shui, we called it. Very inviting. When they have parties, we suggest they remove the table and invite people to sit on the floor. This works best for very small children in boxy Halloween costumes.


Don’t refinish the floors. Those scratches? They are the signature of the kindest golden retriever you will ever know. They are all that’s left of her, aside from the photos.

Don’t worry that there’s not a backyard. It’s a shared driveway, but notice the beautiful pavers. Never mind the cracks in the vinyl fencing where the Wiffle ball struck. It’s evidence of fun, and of arguments about rules and outcomes.

Tell them this is a neighborhood with an open back door policy. Expect friends to drop by after the kids are in bed, to sip wine or discuss a book or really let loose and test the limits of that white noise machine you put in the kids’ room.

Buyers will appreciate the living room with its built-in bookshelves and gas fireplace, but tell them they’ll never really sit there. There will be too much life to live to just hang around. The days will be long, the years will be short, and then it’ll be time to go.

I wanted four children, but I never wanted to move. I want them to sleep soundly and have space to do their homework, but I know we’ll all miss their one shared bedroom, the “Peter Pan nursery” as we called it. I want them to have a basement to play in, and yet, I picture myself upstairs in the living room, alone. I want them to have a backyard and a neighborhood in which to roam free — ”I’ll be home for dinner!” But I’m afraid I’ll never see them enough.


We are growing up, whether we stay in this house or not.

Preserve these memories for us. Because we can never go back.

Caroline Stowell is a writer in the Chicago area who used to live in Cambridge. Send comments to