Sitting in the small built-in nook beside the fireplace, the same one Julia sat in when we first arrived at the blue house, the day before furniture came from Madison. I snapped a picture of her looking both wistful and content that day. Or is it just that I am feeling that way today and projecting onto an old picture that I only dimly recall?
I have spent the best part of a month packing and with the help of my VNM have moved everything we could possibly carry to the new apartment. This is not like the last move or the one before that when I packed up everything and moved very far away. Right now, those moves feel so much more organized—labels on every box and everything in a box, except for me and Julia and Muta and the cello, a few plants and a carry on bag. This time we carried boxes and plants and plastic bags and clothes on hangers. I labeled a lot but not everything and the piles in the new house are not orderly. Why does it feel like so much bigger a job?
The movers—three very nice guys—have worked hard for the last two hours, emptying the house of what we could not carry. The head of the moving crew, Mark, comments on the moldings and built-ins and wooden archway and we fall into conversation about the empty flat. And I cannot help but start missing this pretty blue house. I get wedded to spaces. They are hard to leave.
Cheshire commented the other day that this is a forced move. She is right. If the landlords were not selling the house, we would not be moving. But her comment near surprised me. This move might have felt forced in the fall when February was very far away, but now it hardly seems so. Back those few months ago, I let my community know that a move was in my future, a friend offered that I look at the first floor of the house she rented in, the landlord needed to do a lot of updating to make it renter ready, Julia and I picked colors for the walls, I visited a few times during construction and we’ve been bringing boxes over for the last two weeks. In many ways, this has been a very easy move. In my head, at least, not in my heart.
As I talk paneled walls and built ins and fireplaces with Mark, I remind myself that this has never been a perfect space—the bathroom is too small, my favorite chair never fit in the living room, the hall to the bedrooms didn’t make sense, and there was that odd, very shallow closet in the dining room, but it was the space that we needed to move from Madison. It was never meant to be forever, but Julia and I sheltered here through some of the roughest days of our relationship. And the Covid years. This was where Justin came to talk about proposing, where Julia left each morning for her last years of school and where I heard that I became a grandmother.
Before I leave, I spend a few moments in the tiny side garden that was a weedy patch of last year’s tomato cages when we moved in. This winter it is resting under a layer of straw, orderly, a few perennials still a muted green. It will not miss me but I did good things in the garden.
Running through my head all morning is—“step out and let the angels catch you.” And “no longer and not yet.” I am in the middle of the space. Between.
I listen to the movers chat as they work. It is an ordinary day for them. How many times have I had ordinary days and been present for something extraordinary, or at least out of the ordinary, in the lives of others.
When I was in fifth or sixth grade, I rode my bike over to our church doing an errand for my mother. I delivered something to the housekeeper at the rectory and was on my way home when I saw a wedding leaving the church. A beautiful bride with veil flying in the breeze on the arm of her happy groom exiting the big front doors of the St. Thomas the Apostle Church, often called St. Thomas on the Parkway owing to an excellent view of the Garden State Parkway from the church steps. The guests lined up along those steps cheering and throwing rice.
My little girl self was struck still with the revelation that this, a very ordinary day for me was something else for those people. At the time, I thought that I might have dressed better if I knew I was going to witness such a spectacle. Now, I would say a lesson of the fullness of life flowed past and into me that day.
By now, I’ve seen it both and many ways—there have been life changing, life startling, joyous, celebratory, grieving days when I see someone walking their dog or the pizza delivery guy ringing a door bell. And I have served as an extra in the spectacular events of lives of people I did not know.
It’s everything all at once (I love that movie!) and comings and goings. Hugs and good-byes. Middle places. And buying pizza for the moving guys.