I have moved so many times over the past 15 years, probably about 10 times, and it is always difficult.
And I'm moving again, today.
It's not just the packing and the boxes and the labor. It's Marcel Proust's "A la recherche du temps perdu," In Search of Lost Time, relived again.
I think back to all the times I have moved before, sometimes with joy, sometimes with bitterness, sometimes with a mixture of the two, but always with memory. This time is different, as each of the previous moves have been.
This time, the pervasive theme has been the support of family and friends. Such love and friendship cannot be measured, nor is it possible to quantify the pain of its absence, when it has not been there. The mind has its own fields and valleys of thought, bright meadows and deep shadows in the vales, and there is always the march ahead.
So I sit among the boxes and the packing paper and the bubble wrap, and review the detritus of a life lived, and it is a time for remembrance. And I do not think I shall move again but once.
I moved in here last September, to a beautiful apartment in a house owned by my good friends, Edith and Henry. A 5 year relationship had ended, and I saw Edith's announcement that she had an apartment to rent. It was kismet, as it's 5 miles from school, and I can't imagine more supportive and wonderful friends than Henry and Edith. My grief at the ending of the relationship was assuaged by the incredible surroundings of woods and a brook behind the house, a view of nothing but trees from my windows, and a warm fireplace during the cold winter months. Here's two pictures from the backyard:
They call it "Nakama Woods." By the way, if you need a massage, Edith is the most incredible masseuse. She has a massage studio downstairs, and it's a little bit of heaven.
And then -- a few months ago, Edith told me that they wanted to move in here, which meant I had to move out. The thought of my moving again was not pleasant. But Edith suggested that perhaps it was time for me to find a house of my own.
"Buy a house? -- I can't afford a house," I whined.
"Oh yes you can," said ever-positive Edith. And she sat me down and with our friend Ed we went through the listings on trulia.com. Turns out that Edith knew the inside and outside and history of every house listed. She grew up not far from here, and has been in town for a good long while. And darned if she didn't find me the perfect little house.
Built in 1924, it had been lived in by a wonderful woman who loved opera and the intellectual life. The house was full of books. She had passed away a few years ago, and was quite universally beloved. She didn't drive, and walked into town practically every day, and often took the train to New York City to see the opera. Perhaps that explains why she lived such a long and healthy life. It also explained why the house, built on a steep hill, has no driveway. It's not a large house, but I don't need a lot of space, and probably couldn't afford a big house anyway, even in this time of low home prices.
The negotiations took a bit of doing, as the house needs quite a bit of work, and I won't have much left after the mortgage payments, and putting in a driveway and fixing the various sagging bits of the house. But we managed to strike a deal, and the contract was signed, and I'm now praying that the bank will give me credit for being a good person in lieu of having buckets of cash. But my mortgage guy feels positive, and so I am hopeful.
I have to move out, though, as the mortgage is going to take two months to process. My friend Bob suggested I stay in an extra room at his place if I had trouble finding a place. Luckily, a friend of mine nearby has a room to rent, and I'm moving in with her and her 10-year old son. My sister and her boyfriend, and Ed and Edith and Henry helped me move my things into storage in the basement. I've never had so much help during a move. I am grateful to have such good friends. The past fifteen years have been quite bereft of friends, as I moved around quite a bit after my first divorce. I've lived in two neighborhoods in Manhattan (Upper East Side and Upper West Side), two neighborhoods in Brooklyn (Fort Greene and Flatbush), two neighborhoods in Boston (Forest Hill and Jamaica Plain), Mahwah NJ, Nyack NY, City Island in the Bronx, and now in Rockland County, NY.
Going through all my possessions, I came across bits and pieces of my old life -- pictures of my son as a pre-teen, of my mother as a young woman, old calendars, notes from old boyfriends, music from my childhood, books I loved but had packed away. The remembrances were keen, and I often sat transfixed, staring at these old possessions as the memories came flooding back. I'm reminded of Fiddler on the Roof, and the song "Anatevka," which the cast sings after they are notified by the Czar's soldiers that the village must be vacated. If you don't remember it, I've put the video at the bottom.
So much of life is marked by these milestones -- a move, a marriage, a relationship, books, photos. But most of all, the support of friends and family makes our lives what they are. When these relationships are sundered or grow dim, life changes and becomes different. One moves inward.
I've also changed much in these past 15 years. I remember when I moved back to New York in 2004, after finishing a second round of grad school and landing, thankfully, a job as a professor. I keenly missed the presence of friends and family, and felt almost desperate to find a relationship. I am in a much different place today. I savor my life without a primary relationship, and I am treasuring the slow process of creating a group of friends. And what good friends they are. They make life so much more delicious.
And so, as painful as the process of moving ever is, I am comforted much by the presence of these good people. I am also comforted by the idea that I shall settle down into my own place. I love my work, and I hope to continue teaching for another 20 years or so. After that, I think I'll like having my cozy little house to retire to. Who knows, I may give up driving and walk into town every day and start visiting the opera.
In a few months, after the closing, if I am lucky, I will move once more, and, I hope, for good. Thank God for friends.