Over the last few months I have said my good byes to many people, places and things. It started with my determined watch of each sunset out the windows of my beloved apartment. I had a tearful moment with my daughter, M, at MOMA saying adieu to some of my favorite paintings there by Rousseau, Mondrian and Monet. I hugged the postal worker from my former village. I visited my attorney for a final chat. I dined with warm, kind and loving friends. I spent as many hours as I could with M who remains in NYC, for whom Pittsburgh is a distant unknown.
The last day I hung out with my oldest NY friend, whom I met the day I moved to NYC, a former roommate of my sister and of mine. That was perfect, not only for the symmetry it gave the occasion, but because he provided enormous help in clearing out everything from my apartment. We ate a lunch his wife had packed us sitting in his van looking out at the mighty, frozen Hudson.
The biggest intellectual problem I’ve had during this time, is taming the urge to see everything in symbolic and metaphoric terms. When I left Westchester with but one key for my car, the impulse to view this as emblematic of my nomadic (not to say homeless) status was huge. I tried to address this by joking, “do you need a key ring if you only have one key?”
The confirmation of my divorce which came in the mail the other day brought far too many temptations to see that event as an affirmation, or at least confirmation, of the break from one life to another. The inability for Spring to arrive, the loss of any number of things in this latest move, those items that I should have brought and sit in storage; all these and more dance in my head in capital letters as some sort of small-bore manifestations of the greater changes in my life.
Now I am sleeping across the street from the house I grew up in. I can look out the window in my bedroom and see the tiny two-bedroom house where I lived from the time I was born until I left for college. Unlike many things from childhood, it does not look smaller. It always was small, certainly too much so for the six of us who once lived there.
I like to think that I am not someone who sees my life in dramatic ways, but as I lay in bed this morning, I realized not only my proximity to my childhood home, but that I was actually sleeping in my mother’s bed! This does require at least an exclamation point if not capital letters. I can’t actually assign this enormous meaning, but it surely is damned strange! Upon reflection this is much like the time has been for me since I returned to Pittsburgh: familiar and strange.
My absent hostess and first friend, J, reminded me shortly after I arrived that the bed had been Mummy’s so I did have knowledge if not cognition. When we sold the house across the street, we didn’t move most of the furniture with our mum into her assisted living apartment. Each of us laid claim to some things and there was a great deal that none of us wanted, or maybe wanted but had no place for. The bed was in the former category. It wasn’t something that we had grown up with. Mum had bought the bed late in life, after Daddy died. We were happy that J wanted it, because she had been so kind to our mother. So it made the trip across the street, just as I have. Its journey was more direct than my own. And so when I arrived on St.Patrick’s Day I made that bed and every night I lie in it. Hell, there’s a metaphor right there, and I didn’t even create it!