Friday, February 22, 2008

a life in boxes

Thomas Cole ~ The Departure

When I left Italy last summer, I literally packed up and left. We were each allowed two suitcases, and we sent 1 cubic meter of air freight. My life of 15 years had to shrink down into this limited amount of space. The rest,whatever that was, I put into boxes. I taped and labeled these boxes and packed them away, sure that I would be back in a year's time to open them and deal with whatever it was that I couldn't bear to throw away and couldn't fit into my new shrunken life.

Now I find that I can't remember what are in these boxes. I can't even remember where many of them are. Was I so distracted then as I packed? Was I so ready to leave? Was I so flippant? I walk around in my life here and wonder how on earth I will ever fit the past into the present. I wonder how I will ever reconcile Jenny here in this place.

I've done this all my life. I've always packed up and left. I've always started over. I like to think of this as one of my strong points. I don't hang on to things. I don't drag around a lot of baggage. But now as I am getting older, I wonder if I've been fooling myself all this time. I wonder if I should have brought more with me over the years. I wonder about long lost friends and the smells of my favorite homes that sometimes make their way into my dreams. I remember the feeling of sitting on my front porch at my little house in Albuquerque and smelling the crisp air in the spring. I remember the evenings around the fire in Italy and the smell of chestnuts roasting.

As fate would have it I will not be returning to Italy this summer. My husband and children are going, but I will stay here, and I wonder what that will feel like. Here I can say (since no one is listening) that I'm happy not to go back. I'm happy not to take that hellish flight and have to deal with the thousands of trappings of a life packed away. I'm happy not to see all the people we left right now. I'm happy not to be around my husband's family as they grope. I'm happy to not be leaving Colorado at the peak of wild flower season.But then I think about those boxes. They'll be sitting there waiting for my return. They'll be right there where I left them, wherever that is, waiting to be opened.

And I won't be there.


MsCatCalls said...

You made me remember Albequerque . A place not a lot of people from the UK have been . Its such a wonderful place (and your writing so evocative generally). I admire your ability to pack up small and move on .

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

It seems like you don't need things because you carry the memories. I think we all have too many things in life. Maybe the boxes can just stay where they are. How long will your family be gone?

anno said...

Sometimes I think that saving memories is one reason people write. I love the feelings you evoke of Albuquerque and your house with the stone walls in Italy.

anno said...

And, did you just say that you will be spending some time at home this summer all by yourself?


G in Berlin said...

Sometimes, the things that you leave behind aren't needed and that is why you left them behind. Sometimes they are needed and you have just forgotten them. Whrn we had to pack, and rather rapidly, to come to Germany, part of my problem was that I needed to go through not only all my current possessions (and those of my family) but also the boxes I had moved around unopened since the death of family members and since prior moves. In some cases, I discovered duplicates: I had needed those things. In other cases, the emotional attachment was now gone and I could with light heart donate or give away. But in the last case, I packed up and stored and will gladly reclaim when I can (and almost all my books fell into that category). Time enough if you have emotional baggage you need to lighten.

jen said...

you and I are similar, or seem similar in many ways. the leaving and the leaving behind. i know it well.

EP said...

I lived in Italy for a short time two summers ago, and your post brought me back to the frantic packing of all of my belongings. I stumbled upon some of them recently and wondered why I thought so much of these things that I brought them home with me.

How long will your family be gone?

jennifer said...

And I thought I had lost all my readers. I haven't had much gumption to write lately, so thanks to all of you who took the time to read this. It's a very difficult feeling to describe.
My husband and boys will be gone nearly three weeks. I'll be here with Lucky, and hopefully trying to close on a house.
I'll be alone...... there aren't enough dots for that sentence

Fourier Analyst said...

Oh Darlin'! I so know what you mean. I left for Germany with the intention of only being away for 2 years. Furniture that I had long saved for or paid out over time went into storage. And these were pieces that I had searched for and picked out and planned to treasure for years and years. Then when I realized the move to Europe was permanent, I had to farm out pieces to various family members, and give away other things that I could finally let go of. Through the years I have unpacked various boes of "my life" that had been in storage at my Mom's. So many memories come flooding back. And so many things I find I can let go of.

But sometimes, when I am visiting at Mom's, there is a cocktail table or a vase or fragile knick-knack that used to be mine, and I long to have it again, but know that it just can't be. And I get melancholy. It's not as if I don't have too much stuff here already, but there is an attachment that I have to objects which only reflects on the care with which I acquired them.

(Or I am just a packrat and use this as an excuse for this hoarding behaviour!)