Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Numbness. A lack of animation. Loss without tears. A rush in the beating of my heart concealed by my outward calm. I took down the mirror in my bedroom so I could no longer see the dullness in my eyes. Friends rushed through the house collecting furniture, loading it on the back of pick-up trucks, hauling it off to storage in a neighbor’s barn. A group of several women stood around the dining room table wrapping collections of stemware and vintage pottery, putting it in boxes and labeling it for storage on shelves in the barn. They talked and laughed and joked about the number of depression glass tumblers or the quantity of jadite plates. Things collected over the past thirty years all going into hiding behind reams of newsprint shrouded in boxes labeled Roseville and cream pottery. Pieces of glass and ceramic that once stood proud on the mantle in the snug or in the china cabinet Rick had designed and built with arched leaded glass doors my mom and sister had built back in Wisconsin and delivered one Christmas in the back of their car. Each piece carried a memory and it wasn’t until you held it in your hand and rubbed it like Aladdin’s lamp that the memory appeared. It’s the magic a piece of stemware, a toy, a family photo tucked on a shelf can possess. I watched the ladies’ nimble fingers picking up each piece and swaddling them in wrapping paper before gently placing them in packing boxes and closing the lids on a life lived. Packed away were the green glasses with the swirled pattern Emmy used to serve lemonade the summer she turned six. The ironstone bowl I used to make my watermelon salad with the black pepper, Bermuda onions and feta cheese was packed away with the pair of pitchers we bought at an antique store located down the street. A portrait of Emmy I had a street artist draw one sunny afternoon on the crowded streets of Montemartre got carried out to the truck with a painting we bought in Montelcino, a Tuscan hill town, near where we stayed on many a summer holiday. We had insisted that the airline allow us to carry this painting on board with us and store it in the closet designated for coats, an advantage to traveling business class. Rick loved the painting. We hung it at the top of stairs suspended by a lavender ribbon.  The memory it held was ours, a memory of driving through the Tuscan countryside lined with poplars casting dramatic late afternoon shadows across the dirt roads. A little line of dirt remains outlining the wall where the painting hung. I know I should be packing with everyone else but instead I go to the scullery to get a fresh bucket of water to wash off the line of dirt on the wall,, the telltale reminder of what once was. I feel as if everyone is staring at me, wanting me to grab everything, take the house apart. I can hear the undercurrent,  “don’t bother to clean, let the new owner deal with that” but I can’t. I’ve spent my life searching for beauty and this house was the result. It is a part of me. It represented who I am. It’s where we played hide-and-seek with a bunch of thirty-year-olds at a surprise birthday party Rick threw for me. It’s where we made dinner for sixty in a ramshackle kitchen when JoHannah and Adam got married on our front porch. It’s where we huddled together for a long winter waiting for the phone to ring with calls from desperate young women looking for someone to adopt their child. It’s where we brought Emmy for the first two months of her life. The bassinette still in the attic filled with pillows waiting to come down with the rest of the things on their way to storage in a neighbor’s barn.

Know that friendship goes a long way. No matter how far you think you have fallen, there are friends who will be there to break your fall.

If part of starting over involves moving and you really need to watch the budget get your boxes after dark from the back of your local grocery, liquor or drug store. Then buy a roll of plastic wrap to wrap around loose items. The plastic wrap was a Godsend. It cut wrapping time in half.

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