It happened. Just as we told ourselves it would (though I hadn’t quite believed it), a moving truck came, and with it three men, to move us along on our journey. They wrapped our furniture in plastic, loaded it on a truck and hauled it away.
The furniture, what was left of it after finding much of it new loving homes, spent the first night of many in a storage facility in Gardena. I wonder, Is it cold there? Does it wonder why we sent it away? Does it miss us?
As for us, we are spending the first week of our adventure in a rather unadventurous spot. My parents’ house, a mile from our empty — save for dust mountains and piles of stuff awaiting sorting into donate or burn piles — one.
In the living room where I now sit, I used to fall asleep on a blue velvet sofa while watching Saturday Night Live. My father would come downstairs at 1 a.m. and wake me, make me go up to my bed. “Let me sleep down here,” I’d plead through lips barely moving, eyes closed. Rarely the enforcer, he stood his ground. “You’ll sleep better in your bed,” he insisted. Something about that was sacred.
Now I am the mother, putting my children to sleep in the house that sheltered my childhood dreams. The blue sofa is history; the furniture in every room has improved over the decades (though SNL has not). I still stay up too late.
Yesterday, my children, husband and I ate our last meal together in our house of seven years. We finished Fourth of July leftovers: chili, watermelon and strawberries, fresh baked bread. We sat outside because our dining chairs had left the day before with a friend. The weather was California perfect. I said Yes to requests for ice cream, and to requests for seconds.
“Let’s do our goodbye ceremony now,” I suggested. Aaron and I collected four rocks from our side yard, washed the soil off, dried them, and presented them to Emmett and Christopher.
With new markers bought for this occasion we each wrote something meaningful on our rock. Our names. The date. A symbol. Aaron found a place to hide them in our yard, a place they could always stay, leaving some of ourselves behind.
Moving on, Emmett next used the markers to draw a red moustache on his face. Aaron drew himself a brown beard and red moustache. Then he went back inside, and returned minutes later with blue dashes all around his forehead and cheeks. “Waah,” he said, trying to smile. “I’m so sad.” Tears of a clown.
On moving day, Aaron stayed away at his grandparents’ house. He did not want to see. Emmett came to see for himself; he’d never moved before. He felt he’d missed something. After he left with my mom, he called back to ask about something important.
“Mom, you know that thing on the door? Are you bringing it?”
I paused. What thing on the door? “Do you mean the mezuzah?”
“Yeah. I think you should bring it with you.”
“I will.” I said, and he hung up.
We must have passed that symbol – of faith, or maybe just of identity — ten thousand times in the seven years we lived in our house. It took its place on our doorpost four weeks before Emmett took his place in our family. We didn’t talk about it, not much. So I don’t know if I’ll ever understand why Emmett didn’t tell me to be sure to take his dinosaurs, his trains, or his clothes, but did think about that powerful small rectangle that blended in with the paint. I stood in the kitchen with my hand still on the phone, boxes all around me, and wept. The tears I’d been expecting finally came, courtesy of my child’s startling concern. I pinched my nose hard. I didn’t want to cry in front of the men wrapping our loveseat.
It was moving day. In every way.