Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Moving Out

Packing boxes are all over my house right now, ones I’ve pulled from school, or gotten from the friend of a friend. Sharpies, labels, the tape-gun, wrapping paper, and not the Christmas kind.

I’m very present in the fact that this piece of my life is coming to an end. It’s been a long phase, the marriage/motherhood/rising professional phase. A lot has happened to me in this little house, in every part of it, in a home that has felt completely, totally my own since the beginning. I had a little piece of Earth, just like Francie’s grandmother demanded. (And by “my own,” I mean ours, Patrick’s and mine. But he has to write his own blog about what this yellow house has meant to him.)

I can trace every “self” I have been through the places I’ve lived. Pieces of me have carried over, but I am my home and my home is me. Mr. Plumbeam and the Big Orange Splot. Do you know that story? It’s wonderful.

Long ago, I was the little girl on K Street with the doll table and chair set as my “office” desk. I hung contact paper onto the fiberglass insulation of the basement apartment. My cat used to sit by my feet while I wrote my little stories in notebooks, and then he’d get stuck in the wall and we’d have to lure him out with cheese. Government cheese, provided to my mother on welfare. Bread, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese. Rice-a-roni, made of white rice, tuna and a can of cream of mushroom soup. These are poor people’s foods, and they comfort me even now. Rainbows and unicorns in my Lisa Frank coloring books and sticker pages. Knowing that I was swimming upstream, and working for something. My mom was working for me to get something, be something more than the ones before me had had the chance to be. I shared a room, and bunk beds, with my brother, and I learned about resilience and strength in the things my mother never said.

Then I was the girl on Hadassah Way. A house that my mom and her new husband bought from her parents, a house I had lived in with all of them when my mom had gotten divorced. Then, I was the girl with my own room, finally. I sat and journaled beside a crabapple tree on a window seat fashioned out of a radiator and afghans knitted by my grandmother. Hideous 1970’s Lawrence Welk colored afghans, sometimes made of accidental patterns of yarn from whatever was leftover after knitting the bedding for each of the four bedrooms. (I have one of those afghans now, and it is one of my most treasured possessions. I had Katie give birth under it in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.) The amazing house that my Greatest Generation grandparents were able to afford after living their own childhoods and early marriage in such poverty. They made a jump up on the social scale, and I was in a yellow bedroom by the sea because of it. In that house, I had a canopy bed that had belonged to my aunt. A hand me down, but still…my own. I had a record player, also left behind from my aunt along with a pile of Broadway records and Fleetwood Mac. Sacrifices were made to keep me there, in a place of normalcy and safety. I can recognize and appreciate that now. I appreciated it then, I think, but I was, in the way of all adolescents, just ready for more, very quickly. I was bursting to get out and BE, to learn and explore and taste every thing that life could offer me. And I had the soundtrack to go with it. That’s who I became on Hadassah Way. I plotted and planned and projected, and manifested my whole entire future.

And then there was college – Crabtree and Rolling Green and all of those other dorms and waiting places in between. It’s a Wonderful Life poster and Lisa’s paintings and a rose-colored quilt. I know that’s why I want to paint my office in the new house that same rose color. I want to bring a little bit of that girl along with me in my new house. I liked her. She figured out the concept of Moments in the Woods. Learned to see the moments, appreciate them, and mark them down in purple pen. I’m glad she has remained with me still. (I think I have recently felt embarrassed by that part of me – overly romantic and Hallmark-movie-of-the-week-ish. I am getting over that. I am letting my freak flag fly, finally. Oh, that’s been freeing.) I learned to live with others in those experiences, valuable lessons, and forged the friendships that have been my life’s foundation.

Then it was back home to the yellow bedroom by the sea, which I felt the need to strip of the marigold-colored wallpaper and add a little wildflower border to my white wall. I needed to live at home, for financial reasons, but also because I was needed there, though I still feel that I was not able to fully fulfill my mission to my family in that time. I shut out a lot, and I sometimes wonder if I was supposed to be more supportive, or if I was supposed to focus on my own journey and doing my part to bring the line along, so to speak. I had made it to college. I was getting ready to marry the Good Boy. I wondered, then, if my grandmother had lain awake in this same house years before, hoping that everything she was sacrificing would ultimately allow for someone, one of us, one of her progeny, to get where I was going. To take that next step up. I used that time, in that room, to end my life as Me, alone, and get ready to permanently share my life with someone. I was very present in that transition, too. Scared the shit out of me, but I was IN it.

Our apartment on North Street, and our brief time in that Duxbury mansion, tromping my pregnant self up three flights of stairs. Building a marriage, having a child, and getting ready to own my piece of the Earth, a piece with a porch swing and a back deck and trees trees trees. I know the outline of every one of those trees against the night sky. I know my stone wall and my yellow bedroom and the girls’ peach bedroom with directives painted on the wall by my own hands….explore, learn, play, dream, celebrate, learn, wonder, laugh…I hope that there have been nights when they have had a hard time sleeping, and they have read them round in a circle by the light of their nightlights, and repeated them a like a mantra. Burned them onto their little spirits. I have been entrusted with the souls of two Little Women, and I have tried to be a good teacher. I became a mother and a wife here. Here on Westwood Road.

In the Westwood Road years, I have learned the value of connection. If my college word was Moment, these have been the Connection years. Stretching the boundaries of my relationships, all of them, just to see what they were made of. How much they could withstand, how they could all fit together. I have never stopped marveling at how close you could be with a person, and how varied those forms of closeness could be. I feel like now, I am working to study them, a few at a time. My friendships ebb and flow now, but I do believe that the friendships that matter will remain true in their cores. We are all busy people. We’ve all got a lot of living to do right now. Someday, not as far away from now as we think, my friends and I will have time to sit on my front porch, or some front porch somewhere. We’ll drink wine and watch the waves and mull it all over. We’ll have time for that again, like we did in college. Only…we’ll have more to talk about. Right now we’re busy living the lives we’ll be laughing about later.

In this new place that I go, I will see my girls through high school, and maybe beyond. I will evolve into the next phase of my marriage. I will let it all unfold as slowly as I can. I am not in any hurry right now. More than any other time in my whole life, I just want to take everything as it comes. I want to look forward to things in the short term – vacations, writing things, parties with my friends, celebrations with my powerful little family. Not much beyond that.

I feel that this is a chance for a new start for me. In this new Home, in this new phase of my life, I have several goals. One, to finally learn yoga. To be a kick-ass, focused mother to teenage girls. To be a great wife. And for me, writing. (Though I will work on being less wordy in my new house. Haaaa.) I want to learn, in my new home, to write my truth. I don’t always tell the truth, and that is something I have spent the past several years working to change. But it’s actually less about writing, and more about being the person I am willing to tell the truth about. I want to be the kind of person who lives a life she can tell about…mostly. (What fun would I be if you thought I had NO secrets? The secrets I will choose to make now will eventually be truth, and they will be…delicious.) But, seriously, when you think about writing that has touched your life, it’s has been writing that has had the ring of truth. You know it when you hear it. I am trying to ring true.

That will be my mantra for my new home, my new life. The years of Ringing True.


  1. I love this. So much.

  2. Busy living the lives we will laugh about later. I agree. I also find it interesting that we were in such a hurry when we were younger and now we yearn to slow it all down. That must be part of why we will fight with our daughters so much. Though, I still think about focusing on the moments, that is how I slow it down I think. Love you. Don't forget to pack the pickles.

  3. Oh, Elise. The pickles go where I go. Yes, back then we were in a hurry, but we still loved the ride. I have the journals to prove it, and I know you do, too. We're doing our best. Meet you on the theater bus in orthopedic shoes, roundabout 2051.