A sold sign stood proud in our yard on 82nd Street. I sat in the living room surrounded by boxes and bubble wrap as a strange feeling of bliss and panic crawled up my chest. We had less than three weeks to move. After raising our blended family of four children, my husband John and I were going to build the house of our dreams. As I glanced around at the evidence of the last eleven years, however, I felt hot tears welling up. How am I going to pack up all of these memories?
The last time I moved was pure torture. Moving on was harder than I’d anticipated.
Before I married John, I was a single mom with three children. After my divorce, my dad bought me a little cottage on Meta Street in a neighborhood I christened Ghetto Gardens. That’s where I learned to use a lawnmower for the first time. I found out it was a lot like vacuuming, only outdoors. It’s funny—I never felt independent using a vacuum cleaner, but a lawn mower was a different story. I was an adult now, but I grew up in that house.
A few years after my divorce I fell in love with John. When we married he and his daughter moved in, or should I say, squeezed in. Our blended family was about to bust out of my little cottage. We needed a bigger house.
When we sold our home in Ghetto Gardens, part of my heart stayed there. That’s where Jake learned how to wiggle out of his highchair and open locked cabinets. Brittany learned to do cheer jumps off the redwood deck and we buried Indy there—the bunny I inherited when Garrett’s Science teacher conned me into bringing him home for the weekend.
I cried for weeks after we moved. Seven years of memories were cemented on Meta Street. And now, as I surveyed the remnants from the last eleven years, I was afraid of another meltdown. I had more memories in this house. Band competitions, choir performances and drivers ed. ACT exams, prom dates and graduations.
John counted. “Fifty six boxes so far! Seriously?” he said pointing my collection of the kid’s school papers. “Do you really need all that junk?”
John’s a tosser. A non-sentimentalist. I’ve learned to check the trash can after he’s taped up a box. “I can’t throw these papers away!” I said as I clutched Garrett’s graduation gown in my other hand.
“You’re not going to pack that up, too, are you?” John laughed. “You know it’s just going to wind up in the attic.”
True. It was just a wad of blue polyester and I knew Garrett would never wear it again, but to me it was a priceless trophy that took eighteen years to earn.
A tear strolled down my cheek.
“You don’t need to keep the gown to remember his graduation,” John assured me. “Your memories aren’t sewn to the fabric.”
I glanced at a pile of family pictures ready to be packed—each year identified by its trend-setting theme of color-coordinated clothing. Finding matching clothes for the entire family was a chore only a mother could appreciate.
Our last year’s photo session was shot outdoors at a nearby park. The weather was bone chilling. Instead of cheese, our photographer yelled freeze before each shot. In between poses we huddled together in our baby blue and chocolate ensembles ripping off our coats just long enough to flash a split-second smile for the camera. In the pose that made our Family Wall of Fame I had a death grip on Garrett’s arm. It may have looked affectionate, but I knew the real reason I couldn’t let go. It helped keep my teeth from chattering.
Then there was the year Garrett had blue spiked hair and John had braces. That was funny all by itself, but one of the kids got creative with photo editing tools and decided to crop and swap all our faces. I still can’t look at that picture without a five-minute belly laugh.
As I reflected on each photo session, I felt somehow liberated. For once, (or maybe twice) John was right. Memories aren’t attached to things. They’re carried in my heart.
The next week I had a garage sale. Afterwards I loaded up a dozen boxes for donation. As I slid the last box into my vehicle I caught a glimpse of the sold sign in the yard. It didn’t scare me any longer. My memories aren’t staying on 82nd Street. They’re tucked away in my heart and moving with me to our new home. And there I’m sure…
I’ll have plenty of time to create new ones.