Monday, September 12, 2016

Moving On

It's been six months to the day since I last wrote.  Six straight months of sorting, reliving, moving, discarding, earmarking, revisiting, and preparing for the sale of the stuff and for the sale of the house we've had as our home for the past 23 years.

Physically, it's been daunting.  The amount of things that have gone from house to basement or attic or separate rentals or storage units has been exhausting.  At my age my knees are hurting, my feet are too, and at night, my hip bones ache.  It has all been done in the sweltering heat of an unusually hot southern summer.

Logistically, it has been the challenge of shifting things from here to there, truckloads, carloads, and still  there is always more.  I call it the fishes and the loaves.  You think you're done but you open another door, another closet, another hidden recess, and find there are still items to deal with, to decide, to divest.

Emotionally, it is what you might imagine. An endless confrontation of the memories of every moment you have lived.  I found an album where I had placed every engagement and wedding card we received.  There was a box with each and every gift card and greeting card from the time I was pregnant through their second birthday.  I had no idea that there were specific cards made that said   "Congratulations!  You're Expecting Twins!"  I had about twelve each of the three designs that were made.  I had no memory of such cards.  

The cards represented all the well wishes, all the outpouring of love  from those we knew and those we didn't.  Gifts from people's mothers I'd never met.  Hand-knit teeny-tiny white baby booties from Jean-Louis' mom in Paris.  Matching hooded sweaters trimmed in blue and pink with pom-pom ties from Susan's co-worker's mom in Nebraska or North Dakota.  Ceramic plates with cherubic babies hand-painted by Aunt Doris on my father's side, with their names and weights and birthdates.  Loving expressions of joy at our great gift of healthy boy-girl twins.

Box after box after bin after bag of photos capturing the moments of our 36 years together  the vacations, the birthdays, the holidays, the milestones  all smiling and hugging and picturing happiness.  

What do you do with the thousands of images that you've stockpiled before things were digital?  The wedding photos, the engagement, bridal and baby showers?  What do you keep?  I, who always had walls and stairwells hung with framed photographs of family.  I don't want them staring me in the face.  Looking at me with eyes that question the close of that life lived.

Others are selling off the art, pottery, jewelry, household goods and knickknacks of my past.  I've kept quite a bit but moving into a house that's one-third the space forces you to be selective and I have been.  Let us hope that my former treasures find places in someone else's home and that they will bring pleasure to others as they once did to me.

I feel relief that it's almost at the end of a long passage.  The six-month road of dismantling what once was.  I feel a sense of lightness and ease at no longer being weighed down by so much.  And even better, I love my new home.

It is a tremendous gift to love where one lives   to feel a sense of comfort and real happiness  to walk in the door and smile at the things you see.  I feel that here.  I settled in very quickly, probably because I've felt "homeless" for the past twenty months.  My nest is made and I am cocooning at the moment.  When I open my eyes in the morning I see a half wall filled floor-to-ceiling with sixteen pieces of art that I adore.  Lauren's framed wedding invitation with its silvery tree.  The blue castle from college-friend Peggy.  The framed Folon poster all signed on the back from my Random House buddies celebrating my first real apartment in Manhattan. The lovers kissing "In a Sentimental Mood" by Havlicek from Shirley Sender. The tiny painted grove of trees by Norman Kaplanoff bought in the basement of a Ukrainian church on the lower East side for 50¢ (unframed). 

Two more tree etchings, one from my daughter, bought in Florence (bottom) and one from my son that we picked out together one Christmas.  

Various representation of and from New York: the Flatiron Building, the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge... 


and the lovely print of swimming goldfish that I bought on the street outside the Museum of Modern Art from a Chinese artist named Zhyoo (and I have never been able to track down).

The gorgeous watercolor of the Colorado mountains painted by Lynnie's sister Joannie Shapiro and...

"Shadow of the child I used to be" by m. ensign johnson.

I am a shadow of the person I used to be. Empty of virtually all my former longer a daughter, sister, not a wife, not a couple, not a co-worker, not a teacher, and not a mother in the way I was for 20+ years. Emptying me of the marriage, the house, the possessions and feeling hollow is hard but I'm beginning to feel the openness — in being able to start again and figure out just want I want to fill inside. What I want. 

What I want. Not what is expected. Not what I think I should be, need to be, have to be. Just what I want. 

I don't know what I want, but it's nice to begin imagining.

Wish me luck.


  1. This is absolutely gorgeous writing, Melanie. And the photos of artwork emphasize the emotion so beautifully. I know you well enough to envision you in this new world which you have described. I'm glad you feel cocooned at last.

    I am in a similar position, not yet cocooned but rather still shedding -- scaling down from 2 houses (one of them thanks to my husband's financial abilities at the time), to a smaller abode. The divesting of things which I once thought impossible to part with is somehow freeing.

    But before that moment of freedom, the poignancy of the memories is terribly, painfully

    1. Thank you Megan...I'm sorry for anyone who has to go through that kind of pain but I put faith in what's on the other side for both of us!

  2. Very inspiring - to start new, fresh - to identify who you/I want to be. No shoulds. Just you/me. Thank you for leading the way of shedding what is not necessary nor desired. You are free.

    1. Thank you for the encouragement Peggy...each of us has a journey to make.

  3. Congratulations! What. A journey it has been for you. ... Thank you for sharing some of the moments with us. Life goes so quickly. I am in awe that you have let go of so much to find something deeper in yourself. Bless you Melanie...

  4. deep breath, honored to witness your process. Brings Mary Oliver to mind (what doesn't??), The Journey...

    But little by little,
    as you left their voices behind,
    the stars began to burn
    through the sheets of clouds,
    and there was a new voice,
    which you slowly recognized as your own,

    that kept you company
    as you strode deeper and deeper
    into the world,
    determined to do
    the only thing you could do-
    determined to save
    the only life you could save.

  5. It's an honour to read about your journey. Love, Therese

  6. Wishing you what you really want for the future. One day at a time, one step at a time. Things will blossom for you!