Archive for September 3rd, 2006

Odyssey 2006 Day 1

Sam and I are moving away from New Haven Connecticut, taking only (mostly) what we can fit in our car, and driving across the US, visiting friends and family along the way, with California as a general destination. Following the epic and poetic suggestion of Sam’s father, I’ve decided to entitle “Muse” submissions that recount this adventure “The Odyssey.”

August 31st – today was the day we moved out of our house, and away from New Haven. We planned to leave at noon, but ended up taking the whole day to finish deconstructing our home and packing our car. It was really, really, hard for me; though quite liberating for Sam. After facing and surmounting the inevitable “it’s never all going to fit in our car” moment, after giving away a few precious objects that we wanted to keep but just couldn’t fit in the trunk, after a last-minute delivery of odds and ends to Goodwill, after sweeping out the garage and writing a goodbye note and thank you card to our landlord, we turned out the lights for the last time.

As I stood at the base of the stairs looking up towards our living room, I felt so sad. Not because I wanted to stay… not because I regretted leaving… not because I thought our apartment was my dream house… but because this assortment of walls and windows sheltered a year’s worth of intense emotional upheaval, transition, panic, mortal dread, and joy. There were times when I imagine the sheer intensity of emotion expended in these rooms must have been visible and palpable – like the way heat makes the air wavy above a grill.

There was the time, for example, that I almost missed the dissertation-submission deadline because I underestimated the amount of time it would take to print; all I could do was wait, pace, gnash my teeth and howl, and exude so much panic that I’m quite certain I poisoned myself.

There were times that I came home from school and found Sam in the kitchen, singing and chopping up vegetables, an aperitif ready and waiting for me on the coffee table in the living room.

There was the time that time stood still, and I completely reformatted every sentence in a 400 page manuscript between the hours of midnight and dawn.

There was my graduation party, with my family from Montana and Alaska, and Sam’s family from France, all together, laughing, miraculously communicating, sharing champagne and buffalo burgers and celebrating our engagement.

There was my post-dissertation emotional crisis that started at 5:05 PM on March 15th, as I huddled, exhausted, in my bed, totally unable to comprehend the enormity of being done.

There were the first tentative conversations about marriage and babies, held in the kitchen in the midst of singing, dancing, and chopping of vegetables.

What made me cry, I think, as I leaned against the wall and looked up those stairs for the last time, was the awareness that the house had sheltered me and us through it all – and all with no judgment, no complaint. How do you thank a structure for unconditional acceptance? How do you make sure that the next people who come along will do just as much to keep the carpet clean, the walls bright, the windows open and filled with life? How do you apologize for having wished, sometimes, to be somewhere else?

We finally drove away at 11:00 PM, and made it as far that night as a Motel 6 in Branford. Which is about 10 miles away. A rather modest beginning for an Odyssey! We could have spent one more night in our apartment but I couldn’t stand to see the sad little bits and pieces of our beautiful life still scattered around – a shiny nearly new broom and dustpan leaning against the dumpster in the back, an overnight bag and decorative pillow huddled on the street corner next to a lamp post waiting for new owners. Did they feel abandoned? Did I do them justice? Did I treat them as well as they served me?

I asked Sam to call my parents and tell them we were on our way because, while I can cry and drive at the same time, I can’t cry, drive, and talk on the phone at the same time. Sam called, and I heard the last bit of his voice mail message, which was “Wo-hoo!!!” As we drove north on I-95 Sam sang one of his favorite reggae songs… “why must we stay… where we don’t belong?”

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