Lightning is sometimes hard to see by

I am slowly going through the boxes of papers my parents made me take when they moved two years ago. (Wide they have to rush me out of there? Why didn't they have their hands under my chin?) In the Fall of 2008 we rented a car and packed it to the brim with little infant Wally squeezed in the back seat  between my mix tapes and Quadra 605 and papers on The Odyssey. Oh and all the letters from all those years of real correspondence. You will not believe how many I've saved. My parents had held that stuff and more for over 7 years after I left on that Greyhound bus for New York. But now they were moving to a bigger house, and wisely wanted less stuff. In the new house I'd have plenty of places I could stay but no room of my own. Dara and I had always shared the master bedroom, even back in the apartment we lived in before the condo we spent most of our lives. She'd managed to pack up her things, throw most of them out, and carry the rest away I think on her first big post-college move (to Buffalo) and unsurprisingly I never had. Even after having a boyfriend and a baby and eight jobs in NY and a band and most of my adult life spent here, when I slept in that room at 38 D-- Rd it felt like not too many things had changed. Sure they'd moved in the de rigueur empty nest treadmill and my mom's clothes took over the closet and eventually my dad even had his computer set up on my little wooden desk, but I had As I Lay Dying and my Bishop collections up on the shelves, plenty of clothes to wear, jewelry and old chapsticks to dig through, my yearbooks, and Dartmouth memorabilia. Embarrassing to admit but I've never actually read Thomas Wolfe, yet I sometimes disagreed with him: you could go home again. At least for a while.

And though we are in a big apartment by Manhattan standards, the timing was kind of ridiculous. Here's a piece of advice that I think will come in handy: Don't wait for years then finally haul out boxes of stuff you should have taken off your parents' hands after graduation at the same time as you've been recently inundated with bags of miniature clothes and indoor swings and exosaucers and also have your grandmother's belongings to sort through and definitely don't on top of that soon after get laid off and send your winter boots and extra umbrellas and unlabeled cables back home.

Back home. Back to the place that you live, play guitar, make dinner, set up your Ikea bed, raise a family, store boxes of old mix tapes?

My parents only moved a few towns over. So while their main grocery store has changed and they had to switch gyms from a beautiful, almost country club with a fireplace to an ugly, strip-mall operation, and we no longer have a pool to go to in summer, the landscape and points of reference all pretty much the same. Still even remembering to say one town and not the other, especially when the other was not only a town but a whole way of life, a whole world, a childhood, it's weird. The zip code looks wrong. There's no middle-of-the-night motor memory to lead you in the dark. And now I have to catch myself. Change "home" to "my parents' place." Answer "Where will you be at Thanksgiving?" with the name of a town, a few towns over. Sleep on a mattress on the floor and look around for a book I feel like reading which more often than not turns out to be the DSM-IV. Say when something is so wonderfully, unbearably familiar, when the smell of Madeleines is just rushing in from the kitchen, "This reminds me of home" and know that place has no location. That it's in my head.

I am glad they made me take this stuff. It's fun going through it. And it feels good to get rid of most of it. My sister, if she has time to read this, will surely be doing air high-fives to me from Brooklyn. So will Margaret whose world really is lit by lightning now. Maybe the parts we haven't read should remain that way.


  1. Air high five from Bklyn! :)


  2. This gave me so many flashback memories. Remember that stuffed dog with a "French" name? Was he in there hidden amongst the papers?

  3. LeMutt! Yes -- he's alive. And Twinkles, complete with that carrying case. Can you believe it? Speaking of: where is that amazing Victorian dollhouse of yours?


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