December 9 2012
I’m in sorting mode: going through cupboards and shelves and drawers in the hope of winnowing our material life down to some final quantity of necessity, not only in terms of what to take with us for a year in Europe, but what to leave behind. It feels a bit like going forward and backward at the same time.
I love this type of decision-making: the piles of ‘stay,’ ‘go,’ ‘throw,’ and ‘donate.’ It’s a kind of decision-making that makes making decisions so much simpler i.e.,there’s less to choose from. And yet, even I, known amongst family and friends to be the great ‘tosser-outer,’ even I hold on to some things. My wedding shoes have survived years of footwear purging, even though I only wore them on our Tuscan wedding day. A pair of cream, kid leather, kitten-heeled, sling-backs, these shoes carried me on the mile-long walk to the colonnade of cypress trees between which we pledged our love, to dancing back along that road accompanied by an accordionist and 50 friends and family members. They rested for a while beneath the banquet table while we filled up on 5 courses of fine local food and many speeches of love and remembrance, and then my slippered feet danced me through the night.
Why do I keep them? Well, apart from my tiny drawstring purse, they’re all I have left of my wedding outfit, the dress having long ago been devoured by moths and the cardigan shrunk in the wash. I’ll never wear them again, I don’t need to, although I do still harbor a dream that my daughter might one day wear them to her own wedding.
I’m certainly not getting rid of my teddy bear either. Ted has been with me since birth and like me he’s a bit worse for wear, having a bad burn on his bum and limbs that are hanging on by a thread. And, like me, he’s been sticking out his tongue at the world on a daily basis. So, Ted stays. But does he stay here or go with me to Europe? Is it totally pathetic to be this old and be seriously thinking of traveling with a teddy bear? Don’t answer.
Photo by Maggie
It is interesting to observe, as the date for departure draws closer, how, along with the excitement of going on this journey, there also arises the attachment to that being left behind. I often boast of not be attached to the material world, but I’m finding that’s not entirely true. I’d like to say I have the courage to pack only clothes, much like when I put on my rucksack at age 17 and hitched around Europe for 3 months with nothing but a sleeping bag, a change of undies, 1 skirt, 2 tops, a pair of pedal-pushers, 1 pair of sandals, a turquoise bikini and a mini-dress which I ironed with a hot light bulb one evening, in a pension in Monaco. Even some of those few things got chucked during the last week of the trip when, penniless, and dying for a ciggy, my girlfriend and I hitched a ride with a cigarette salesman who generously offered us as many cartons as we could make room for.
For years we’ve been going to Tuscany with one checked and one carry-on apiece, sometimes for as long as 4 months. True, I have taken my espresso pot and manual milk-frother, some candles, and this past summer a collection of 5 stones.
Photo by Maggie
But in the last couple of weeks the shelves dedicated to stuff we’re taking seem to be accumulating things like favorite DVD’s, a years worth of my hair gel and toothpaste – well, let’s face it, if your hair and your teeth stay in place you can pretty much survive anything! But also creeping onto the shelves are things like pop-up sponges, a scrabble game, a tiny, much cherished present from my daughter and a small album of wedding photos.
As I look around our home now, I see so many things I think I’ll miss: gifts we’ve made each other, works of art, the teapot collection. And yet the truth is I’ll probably not miss anything. That’s the point isn’t it, to really fly the coop with just the wind beneath our wings?
What I’ll really miss is our family and friends. Today our godson’s baby daughter is being named. She’s one week and one day old. She’ll be more than a year old before we first lay eyes on her. Yes, our nearest and dearest will visit us ‘over there’ and there’s Skype. But I’ll miss linking my daughter’s arm on a regular basis. I’ll miss our Brooklyn Saturday’s with Joel’s daughter, her husband and our 4 year-old, granddaughter. I’ll miss the dinners and laughter and intimate talks with our friends. One friend, who I’ve known for 40 years and who is herself traveling in Europe right now, wrote how sad she is that we won’t see each other before I leave. At her age, she said, one doesn’t know if one will ever see old friends again. In fact, I am moved beyond words by how many people are telling us they are sad we’re leaving and I think, how ironic that I, who have longed to belong all my life, am choosing to leave all the people to whom I belong, as they do to me.
There are some decisions that seem so easy to make at the time you make them, but everything comes with a price. And some decisions are made more difficult because they straddle categories e.g., people and places, two different categories. It’s not like choosing between which pair of shoes to keep.
As someone who has long lived outside my country of birth and upbringing, I have often been faced with choosing between people and place. In the end I always chose to be with the ones I love. But I’ve had a hankering to return to my side of the Atlantic to live, once more, while I still can. The choice is made easier by the support of our family and by the fact that we have many good friends ‘over there.’
Who knows, at the end of a year, where we’ll end up living? Wherever it is, I’ll be taking my wedding shoes, and Ted.