A couple of weeks ago my son wanted to go to the toy store but I said no.
He stared up at me in a charming fashion, and said I’ll make a deal with you. If you take me to the toy store I promise that I will be nice about our move to England. Forever.
I was astonished but thought to clarify: Do you mean that you will be happy and excited about the move?
He said Yes.
I quickly replied Okay! It’s a deal!
Later as we drove toward a bribe that would surely cost less than ten dollars we talked more and it came out that he wasn’t offering to lie. He was in fact offering to reveal his true feelings about the move.
Yesterday he said I can’t stand the suspense. I wish we could move tomorrow!
Yesterday three different people whistled at me; a couple of drunk guys at the bus stop wanted to discuss my putative beauty; a man wandering down the street with a mop leered up close to ask after my health; and an indie rocker tried to strike up a conversation in line at the grocery store.
I’ve never had to deal with this kind of nonsense. Even when I was young and cute people left me alone. I’ve gone through various phases of wandering about in lingerie or dresses that unravel without soliciting the comment of strangers. I do not look like someone who will suffer the attentions – I look like someone who will punch you in the face if you bother me.
People have never had the impression that they could approach me for any reason (with the exception of scared children and lost tourists, who sense that I can help).
I keep the tattoo covered and lately my preference is for dark sensible clothing. The only possible explanation for all of this new attention is my hair. Nine months ago, when it was six different colors, people left me alone. Now it seems that bleached blond hair is some kind of universal please harass me sign.
Who knew that such an ordinary color would be so annoying.
I am sitting here suffering with the effort to get our documented life in order before the move, interspersed with mad drives back and forth across the county for various kid activities.
Byron is lounging around a castle in the Alps having stimulating intellectual conversations.
But then again, I didn’t have to eat pigs knuckles for lunch. So we’re square.
We started our grand migration away from Portland in May of 2002 and before we reach the second anniversary of what seemed to be a permanent decision we will be in Cambridge looking for a place to live.
I have essentially been in the middle of packing and unpacking for two years now, and it will not end until later this summer.
I feel burdened by these possessions, yet when I make a decision to rid our lives of a whole category (say, of stuffed animals) I get caught up in nostalgia. The League of Animals helped both of the children feel better in our temporary accommodation; how can I consign them to the thrift boxes?
Looking through my journal I realized that other than wrestling with boxes and working on the new anthology I haven’t really been in town much since we moved here. It seems like my suitcase is never unpacked; certainly that is true for Byron.
He is off to meetings in Portland and Olympia the rest of this week, then to DC, and then to Germany twice before we go to Cambridge next month. He will be so busy during these trips he won’t even have time to see the friends in the various cities.
If I had known that we would only be here for eighteen months I would have made an effort to see the people who will not visit us overseas. I definitely would have visited my grandmother more often.
Perhaps life on another continent will be less encumbered with material goods and responsibilities and I can have a regular sort of existence.
Though somehow I doubt it.
Several years ago I purchased a bag made of red craft fur. It was too fuzzy for me but also too odd to pass up. After contemplating the problem I decided the purse surely belonged to Ayun and sent it along as a congratulatory gift for some major event (baby? book? I cannot recall).
Every time we’ve visited since I’ve been mildly surprised to see the thing still dangling from her shoulder. The mail today included the new East Village Inky and I was amazed to learn that the bag went along on vacation to Tokyo. I had no idea the present would be so durable and handy.
My kids are still upset that I didn’t take them to see Urinetown in New York before it closed so I had to shell out for the touring show that will hit Seattle next month. It was either that or Germany – and I don’t think that the children would be amused to see the performance in a language other than the one they memorized the songs in.
I must be serious about this move – I just put all five of my square dancing crinolines in a box marked sell.
Last night I sorted the last of the castoff clothing. My son has outgrown all of what he calls handy-downs; I know for sure that I will not have another baby so these small things are going away forever.
I’ll keep a couple of his blazers and ties but the small black turtlenecks and assorted overalls will move on to a new home. Looking through the photographs I am glad that I had these children so young – I am too old now to even consider taking on the rigorous challenge of tending an infant. Especially the eccentric sort that I produced.
Going through the papers I discovered some treats, like Byron’s high school transcripts (they expected him to be a novelist!) and a few remnants of half-forgotten horror. I still have the x-rays from my car accident. I still have paper copies documenting various scandals with the magazine – proof at least that my memory of what happened is accurate and precise.
Strange that we live in a world where it is necessary to maintain records of ephemeral internet conversations. If it were just my reputation at stake I would burn it all right now; I have no desire to defend my decisions by revealing the true character of those who chatter and gossip. But since law enforcement was involved twice, I should keep these files for the time being. I’m going to save them with my tax records and assume that the seven-year rule is wise.
Now my hand and neck are too sore to do much of anything. I suppose that I should just go take a bath and stop fretting.
When we lived in Portland I whiled away many days at the bins – a huge warehouse full of random junk, mostly bought by the pound. The furniture was usually priced erratically, but every so often I found really great stuff.
Two of the best were a massive industrial desk with a rubber work surface, and a white vinyl couch with a fold out bed. They cost $1.00 each and I could not possibly resist, even though they were unwieldy and heavy.
When we moved here both objects had been loved to the edge of annihilation. The couch was too torn up to use any longer and we put it in the garage. The desk went down to the teenager zone, where it languished as a stereo and television stand.
Yesterday Erin Scarum and Shugs moved both out of these massive objects out of our lives.
This involved taking doors off hinges and much extreme wrangling. Goodwill wouldn’t take them so they went to the dump, where we were informed that the couch weighed 300 pounds, the desk 200.
I’m still awfully impressed with my $1.00 bargains. Even though it was more than slightly foolish to drag them from one state to another.
Yesterday I was still congested from the pollen and since it is so difficult to cry I just let the allergies do the work. I drove around and parked by the water and contemplated the fact that I actually love this place, eyes steadily streaming.
The Puget Sound is my home.
When I live elsewhere I feel sick with longing for the water and mountains.
But even though I could actually identify the feeling welling up inside of me (grief) it was tempered by two things. First, the fact that I do not actually go outside. Second, the raw and unkempt NW of my childhood is disappearing in favor of suburban development.
Since the things I loved are almost gone, and I have no desire to go kayaking, I will probably be fine living elsewhere. It was helpful to be here and figure out that I actually don’t care that much. I am not ruled by nostalgia.
Back at home I talked to Marisa on the phone about a show we’re doing, a special event on the coast right before I move. She said that she still misses seeing me every day in Portland when our lives were intertwined. She said that she will miss us, that we will be too far away. She said that she is glad to know me.
There will be new and good things to do in England, and I will be fascinated and charmed by whatever happens. But I am in fact giving up something solid and true when I leave.
On our last evening in Barcelona, as we crossed the street in front of the Sagrada Familia, the children tumbled in a frolicsome fashion and knocked me flat to the ground.
I have whiplash, a sprained wrist, and a wonky hip…. but I’ll be better soon. Off to recuperate now; more later.