Saturday, December 6, 2008

Moving On

In March 2004, we moved from our home in sleepy Almaden Valley in San Jose to one in the town of Saratoga. I wrote this then. Moving is easy. Moving on, I find, is much harder.


Breathless, much like a kid snatching the last candy from a jar, I yank open the drawers in the kitchen for the last time. May be there’s a little something in there that the movers forgot? Yes.

Deep inside the bottom drawer two Power Ranger figurines lie in wait, one in yellow, his left arm missing, the other in red, all intact but for gray specks where our son dug into them with his nails the year he begged for a Power Ranger birthday with a Power Ranger cake, table cloth and napkins.

In a few hours, we will sign the documents that will transfer our home of fifteen years to its new owners. My mind drifts to another similar time not long ago when we bought a new van and gifted our decade-old one to charity.

That fall day, the leaves swirled listlessly around the driveway as the driver hoisted our blue 1994 Dodge Grand Caravan on to his trailer and hooked it under the body of his tow-truck. Little did he know that he was carting off ten years of memories along with 100,444 miles of sneaker odors and juice stains.

That day I resented the new van we had bought, the one fitted with automatic openers and power-everything, loved by my husband who luxuriated in the leather and adored by our kids who stood flicking at its remote opener from miles away.

We tiptoed around this new van like a child would tread around his forbidding school principal. In our beat-up old Caravan, jokes about dad’s belches cracked us all up. Too bad, banter didn’t bounce off nicely enough in our swanky machine. With DVD fittings, moon roofs and GPS things that talk, I guess you’ve to be on your guard, lest someone’s listening in and recording your thoughts.

Those old feelings about new things creep into my soul as we find ourselves once again in discomfort zone, hovering timidly between an imperfect past and an unknown future. In our on-escrow backyard, a little miniature rose that I planted last summer by the right fence still blooms. The potato vine preens, its leafy branches gushing through my kitchen window where I stand staring at the spectacular sight of our garden and the hills beyond. The white oleander has flowered shamelessly this September.

Last September - when my mind had wished for a bigger place in a nicer neighborhood - all I’d seen was the warped top of the fence to its right.

“You’re going to love the buyers,” our agent, Carol, is saying.

Memories. In the family room, my husband has just tucked our four-day old son in a blue receiving blanket and laid him out on a foam pad that’s sheathed in cotton fabric. Our latest arrival wriggles like a worm, squeezes his face into a shriek and gathers his hind. The noise he makes shocks his 20-inch frame and us. His lips melt into a smile and he sleeps. He likes his sun-drenched new home. It’s one he’ll love for the next ten years of his life.

“Their boys are so excited, you’ll not believe what a wonderful family this is!” Carol’s happy our bank account’s going to swell. But I deflate at the thought of two new boys in rooms that were really made for our daughter and our son.

My husband and I walk towards the sunken living room. “Look at that!” he says.
We’re still awestruck by the charm of an entryway and living room that drew us the day we saw it being built fifteen years ago. One year after we moved in, it waved a mylar for ‘It’s a girl!’. Five years later, our mantelpiece became the backdrop for our boy’s best photograph: his 18-month-old head crowned by a newly washed 32 oz. tub of Mountain High Yogurt.

I stand under the stairway straining to hear the old footsteps of a no-more toddler. A shaft of sunlight blankets the sale-pending, polished hardwood in the hallway, warming my neck. I rewind to the painful screech of my daughter’s bow grinding into the strings of her violin. I remember the panic on my husband’s face in the background: “Just how many years of this….cacophony?”

Behind the pillar of the dining room where a music stand stood sentinel for years, a double-pane window braved the seasons and the big Loma Prieta earthquake. It eavesdropped on the tears and frustrations of a little girl who grew and grew and morphed, in ten years, to a violinist who had now begun to bring tears into the eyes of her audience.

“We would like to start moving in are things this weekend,” the 6-year-old boy has scribbled in a note presented to us, when we go to the title company for the final transactions. Below it is his father’s signature, with a ‘thank you’ for our help and understanding.

“That boy’s such a cutie,” Carol says, fishing out another paper. With every new signature, we bury yet another noise-filled album from the past.

High up above the cabinets in our garage where only a ten-foot ladder will reach are boards my kids claim we forgot to transport to the new house.

Old class projects, why bother, I ask. But the kids shriek. “Oh, look at my photo in 2nd grade. My mold experiment - we still have it? I was GOOD.” “And this one on suspension bridges was the best ever.”

Odd, I think. Why is it when we are about to give up something because it is ‘old’, we begin looking at it with brand ‘new’ eyes?

“Kids,” I press weakly. “We’ve got to make place for the new stuff. Why don’t we recycle the project cardboard?”

“No way! And that’s final, mom.”

So we pack the projects into the van for reasons no one can explain.

In our new home, we look for a place to put them. The attic, the kids shout. We tug the string of the drop-down ladder. We load the boards up, one by one, into that endless attic where memories may go but never leave.

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