I knew we were going to be all right when the dog let me know in the only way she could that she was accepting the move.
I’d brought her to the new house four or five times, let her walk around the front newly sodded yard, up and down the sidewalks, and throughout the house in its progressing stages of completion. For weeks in our Wimbledon house, she watched me put together boxes and strip tape around them and pack them with our stuff. Our stuff disappeared and the stacks of boxes in the house grew. She kept looking at me, fully aware that something big and different was going on. Then when the four men from Franklin Movers arrived, she began to shake violently, and my heart began to crumble.
The last big thing in her life was three and a half years ago, when her “daddy” went to the doctor and never came home. She kept watching the street, waiting for him to come around the curve behind the island. She kept watching the back door, waiting for him to walk in, so she could do that high-pitched barking and run to him, then around the circle of hall, foyer, living room, dining room, great room, kitchen, hall, bedroom, with her butt tucked, and she would jump on the bed, still yipping, and greet him as he removed his phone and billfold and loose change. That was our life together and the house on Wimbledon was all she ever knew and it was what I loved and where I felt at home.
We both went through grief then, deep and severe. And I guess some of that will always be with me, because it’s like Alyce, my neighbor in Cleveland, told my mother after my father died, “You don’t ever get over it. You just learn to live with it.” Even yesterday when the cable man was at the house, I was taking notes on setup audio and video 1 and 2 in my old gray At-A-Glance and happened to flip to the back page where I had scribbled notes at the hospital as a nurse named Betsy reported to me: occlusion…clot…mesenteric artery…opened and removed clots…restricted blood flow…complete dissection of aorta. And my chest tightened and squeezed my heart up into my throat, and yes, the tears came. I wasn’t ready for that life, our life, to be over.
So this move has been all about endings. Up until now, that’s it. Endings. Boxing up, packing up, purging, throwing out, giving away things attached to that person who is no longer with us, keeping some, remembering, letting go. Crying, hurting, cursing, fussing at him for keeping everything that I was having to throw away or pack up and move. Then driving away from it all…
Now in the new home, I think about beginnings. New people, new friends, new town, new stores, new everything. I needed a change. I needed NEW. I needed a somewhat smaller house and yard and mortgage payment. Now, I’ve got everything all new. And I can breathe.
As I unboxed my stuff and built a hill of white packing paper on the kitchen floor, the dog walked over, stepped into the stack, rattled it, circled, and lay down. Then she looked up to me, as if to say, “Okay, I’m in this, too.”
And we are okay.
I’ve wanted to go through those tunnels for more than a decade, and by golly, I finally did it!
Fieldstone Farms is a large neighborhood with two thousand homes and a network of paths and trails on both sides of busy Hillsboro Road between Franklin and Nashville. The shopping center with Publix, Walgreens, The UPS Store, Blockbuster, Bricks Restaurant, and so on is on the other side of Hillsboro from the circle on which I live, and I would never be brave enough to cross the busy speedway on my bike. But alas, there are the tunnels: one that goes under Fieldstone Parkway and then immediately veers eastward and goes under Hillsboro Road.
When the sons were home last week, we got the bikes out one evening and headed to Walgreens. I had no idea how to even access the tunnels, but Son #2 did, so he directed the journey…and snapped pictures of me from behind.
They close the gates at dark, and I kept worrying they would somehow automatically shut as we were crossing through, but they didn’t. It’s dark inside, a little scary, but very handy.
By seven as the sun peeks through a cloud-speckled sky, I go for a walk. The air is cool and damp from the gullywashers earlier. At two this morning, one storm came through, bringing rolling thunder and lightning. Then before four I awoke to the sound of hail pounding the roof. It brought me straight up out of bed. I did go back to sleep and dreamt I took a former neighbor’s beagle to a fair and lost it.
Seven weeks after surgery, it feels good to be back at significant exercise. By that, I mean a walk up the Fieldstone trail that gently inclines behind Wyndham Hill. Long steps, pull, breathe.
As I follow the curve of the trail at the back of Wimbledon, I breathe in the smell of honeysuckle. The air is heady with it, and it brings a smile. So many childhood memories of picking the blossoms, pulling the slender centers out, and sucking the “honey”…. Trees are still low and heavy with raindrops, and little wet crystals hang from the tips of every single pine needle. The trail follows Clarendon’s sidewalks, then goes over a little wooden bridge and curves to a quiet hill behind Wyndham. I’m walking alone this morning. The dog has made it clear that she is not about to climb that hill. The last three times I’ve taken her, she comes to an abrupt halt and about-face as we reach the first fence that defines Wyndham Hill. I tug one way; she tugs the other. She’s nine and balking for flat sidewalks, and I let her win.
It’s June and soon the wooded patch along the trail will be filled with pink mimosa blossoms mixed in with the honeysuckle. More memories … of a childhood treehouse built in Nancy’s mimosa tree on the corner of Deering and Third. We sat up there on Dad’s old scrap boards nailed to tree branches and partook of the honeysuckle flowers that grew on a fence beside the tree.
The smells must be what I remember most from those good old days of childhood. They ease me back quicker than anything.