38. SoldMary didn’t think it would be this difficult. She knew it was time; the kids were grown, John was gone, and it was an awful lot of house for her to keep up with.

The new house was smaller, and would be good for her, she knew.

The house sold sooner than she would have believed. The real estate agent had tried to manage her expectations. It might be a while, he had said. The reality, though, was that the housing market had improved over the past few years; the house sold within a week of putting it on the market.

As happy as the agent was, though, Mary couldn’t help but to be a little disappointed, and more than a little shocked, that things had moved so fast. There was a reason why it took nine months to have a baby, she knew; you needed that much time to get used to the idea. She hoped selling the house would be the same way. But she knew that life had a way of changing your carefully laid-out plans, and she would have to “roll with the changes,” as her son said.

Still.

She walked around the house one last time before it was filled with boxes labeled “keep,” “sell,” “donate” and “trash.” She walked the yard, reliving memories of kids yelling and playing. She walked the stairs, with the third step’s familiar creak.

She looked at it the way it was, the way she would remember it.