In a few weeks (and I’ll add a “God-willing” as a qualifier here because we all know that nothing is certain except death and taxes) we will be selling our home of 30 years. It is the home that we built on what was formerly a small piece of farmland in a little town west of Boston. Our town grew up with us; as we aged and our family grew, our town sprouted suburban malls in which we shopped for the kids, trendy restaurants to enjoy on a Saturday night, and lately, just when I have more time to work out, a bunch of boutique fitness centers.
But now, it is time for us to move on.
Preparing for this move is emotionally and physically exhausting, much more so than I anticipated. As I mentioned to my friend the other day, the anxiety of this move has been on par with dealing with breast cancer. Now I can say that because I have just had breast cancer, but I certainly wouldn’t suggest anyone else saying it unless they want to be punched in the face.
“Really?” my friend asked, incredulous.
“Really,” I told her. But then I thought about it a little more. “Ok, maybe not the part where I was waiting for test results. And maybe not the first or the last two sessions of chemo. And maybe not the part where they took off my right breast. But otherwise, yeah…this is pretty stressful.”
I knew it would not be easy. I knew that the kids would not want my grandmother’s china. I knew they would not want that funky chandelier that I took from my mother’s bathroom after she died. I knew they would absolutely want my Vitamix and my artwork, and my good wine glasses, none of which they had a chance of getting.
What I didn’t anticipate were the vastness of the boxes that we had stored in attic and the basement. Boxes full of a half century of memories. Boxes containing bar and bat mitzvah invitations and thank you notes. Boxes containing camp letters. Boxes from grammar school, high school, college and law school. Boxes of pictures from my mother’s house that my brothers wouldn’t take. Boxes containing pictures from Mike’s mother’s house that she handed off to us when she downsized. Boxes of poems and keepsakes from friend’s birthdays parties. Boxes for every holiday you can imagine. I didn’t think we were hoarders, but anyone visiting our basement and attic might dispute that.
“We definitely do not need those files,” I say to Mike, as we sit in the crawl space in the attic above the garage going through three boxes filled with files of every trip we had taken for the past 30 years. He takes out the contract for the boat we rented in Greece, the shopping list we made for houseboat trip to Lake Powell, the itinerary for our honeymoon, the sailing guides to the Caribbean islands.
“We cannot store this stuff,” I say, “Trash it all.” He looks at me like I have misplaced my heart. But I have detached from this house. I am at the point where I am ready to leave. I look at my kitchen cabinets, they seem old and tired. I look at the mish mash of my furniture and wonder why we never really got it together to decorate in a cohesive fashion. I look at rugs with burns from the fireplace, curtains that are old fashioned, bed spreads and pillows that should have long since been replaced, and a 30 year old oven. And all I want to do is trash trash trash.
But not so Mike. He is clingy and sad. He is sentimental to a degree I have never seen before. We have words, because I get impatient as he spends time going through each file, saying Remember This? Remember That?
Eventually, Mike puts all of the vacation files in the trash pile, but I can see he is upset.
“I feel like we are erasing the memories of our lives when we trash those files,” Mike tells me that night in bed.
And what do you say to that?
A tear comes to his eye when he shows me the last calendar he made, that will go up on the refrigerator door, as we have done every month for at least two decades. He has made August, 2017 with photo of our home in the background. Another tear comes to his eye as he tapes the calendar together and affixes it to the refrigerator.
Bubble wrapping the crystal is the easy part.