Why, yes–I did move back in May. And yes,  I’m still unpacking.

I’m down to the boxes where I find the kinds of things that can gut you just a little bit, if you let them.

I have always loved this photo of my girl. There’s something in it that captures exactly who she was then and is now and, I suspect, will always be. It’s in the line of her mouth, the set of her shoulders, the directness of her gaze. And, too, in the flush of her cheeks and the tender curves of her legs, dangling because they are too short, yet, to rest on the pegs meant to support them.

Earlier today,  I wrote a long-postponed letter to the daughter of a man I loved when he and I were young, who wanted to know more about the person her deceased dad once was, and I shared tea with someone from high school who I didn’t know then but wish I had, and sun shone through the rain-splattered window we sat next to and warmed us as our talk flitted from one age we’d been to another, quickly, as if we knew we couldn’t fit nearly enough of three decades of living into a too-short hour, so later this afternoon, when I lifted the flaps of a box to find this photo that I framed nearly twenty years ago, past and present wove themselves into a sheer tapestry shot through with metallic threads of joy and grief and gratitude and regret, forming a scene in which words such as “past” and “present” have no meaning, in which everyone I love and have loved and will love were simultaneously all the ages they ever were and ever will be–and just for a fleeting moment, it was almost as if I could hold it all in my hands, tangible as actual fabric, almost as if I could put words to it that could tell the excruciatingly beautiful facts of our brief existence true.

But I couldn’t. This is the best I could do.

I’m still looking for the right place to put these things, a shelf that can hold the weight of them.


12 thoughts on “Unpacking

  1. Marian says:

    Love the photo of Grace. And yes, those pink jumpers *do* get us every time 🙂 .
    This post makes me think of change, and how much I (we, universally?) rail against it. In trying to get past a recent loss, I came up with a revolving door metaphor, one that’s similar to the age-old phrase “sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open.” This image of a revolving door, which incorporates the vital and brutal truth of physics, has helped me to understand something: No matter how much it hurts—no matter how much you’d like to keep going around and around and around—sticking your foot out and attempting to halt your passage through another person’s revolving door, when it’s been expected that you will be ok with getting shot out the other side, is (in all likelihood) going against the laws of physics. Kids grow up; people get busy with other stuff; friends move on; grandparents pass away; relationships ebb and flow, thrive, wither, die, sometimes get resurrected . . . god, this stuff is hard.
    Marian recently posted…Of Trains and Small CoincidencesMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I am not sure I am understanding the revolving door metaphor, but the final sentence is crystal clear. I think I’m getting the idea that for each of us, our life is a door that others move through. Our kids are their own doors. But I’m not sure this is what you mean. One thing I’ve thought about at different times the past few years is how when our kids are born, their existence really is an extension of ours. What happens to them is, in a really fundamental way, still all about us. And then, it shifts. Their existence becomes theirs, and it means we lose a big part of ours. There is loss in that, but also gain (freedom of several kinds). I find it all both mundane and extraordinary. I don’t think I’ll ever find words to truly convey the depth and complexity of love that I only catch occasional glimpses of.

      • Marian says:

        For me, the difference between a door and a revolving door is the motion (so I suppose, technically, I’m thinking of one of those independently moving revolving doors, rather than one you have to push against in order to set in motion). So, yes, we are all doors, and we all move through others’ doors, but a non-moving door would allow one to linger, to attempt to stay put, whereas a revolving door moves along at a certain pace and you simply must go with the flow or risk jamming up the works. Some doors (our children) are very slow moving (18 years!) while others seem to go around in a heartbeat. When I picture it, I’m not alone in the revolving door: I have a visual image of a constant stream of people going into and then being shot out the other side (so sticking one’s foot out and attempting to stay in someone’s door prevents others from getting in). This part of the metaphor also works for a regular door, though, with people simply crowding around behind you as you stand there, blocking them as you hang onto the jamb, trying your damnedest to not have to leave.
        (My mission to not over-think things is going swimmingly. #sarcasm)
        Marian recently posted…Of Trains and Small CoincidencesMy Profile

        • Rita says:

          I understand better now, thank you. I think it works better for me to think of life as a series of doors that we are all moving through. We enter into and exit at different times and at different paces. I remember really wanting to slow the doors down when my children were young. And I don’t really like how the doors seem to be spinning more and more quickly as I get older.

          Perhaps we should start our own Overthinkers Anonymous group?

          • Marian says:

            My initial response is YES, let’s start an OA group! But then I think back to what I told my therapist: there is a literary quality to my over-thinking and ruminating. Wonderfully constructed arguments, tragic (or happy) stories spun, sentences formed and reformed in the search for the perfect word…maybe, for those of us who love words, this is just impossible to give up.
            Marian recently posted…MakingMy Profile

          • Rita says:

            Well, perhaps our group would not be about giving up our thinking. (I feel a good deal of resistance to the whole notion of over-thinking. I have suspected it was invented by those who could benefit from doing more of it.) It would be about supporting each other in being the kind of people who think and reflect a great deal. I agree with you that it adds something to my writing. Sometimes it detracts from it, too. But I know I wouldn’t be the writer I am if I didn’t have the kind of mind I do. I know that’s true of you, too.

            Maybe we should just have a writing group instead? 🙂

          • Marian says:

            “I feel a good deal of resistance to the whole notion of over-thinking. I have suspected it was invented by those who could benefit from doing more of it.”
            This! A million times, this! (My over-thinking has, for the past year, been all about how, how, how, how, how (!) to get particular thoughtless people to do more thinking.)

            It’s sounding (to over-thinking me) that you might be seriously floating the idea of a writing group…
            Are you?
            Because I would most definitely want to be part of that 🙂 .
            Marian recently posted…MakingMy Profile

  2. Kate says:

    This knocked me breathless for a second. I’m reading (and writing this) while listening to a little boy voice playing with a monster truck and some interconnected pyramid toy that belonged to my husband as a kid and I *know* the days with these toys are fleeting. Everything is fleeting.
    Kate recently posted…Tuesday ThingsMy Profile

  3. TD says:

    Dear Rita, I am so happy to find you writing again. The last I read was your post in January, essay with the words “stepping off the red curb”! It took me a while to fully comprehend its meaning, but I got!!! Yikes.

    You might remember me as a reader as I have written to you on your space. I always find meaningful words here; great wisdom from you and your readers who share. I love the exchange of life experiences.

    I, too, have been extremely busy in process of transition into the next phase life of aging. Searching, travel, in quest to find affordable life of a future. I have been engaged in relocation of home, sell of and purchase of the next place to call home. Thursday, I met with another realtor to discuss the sale of my property. I didn’t sign the exclusive agreement as of yet. Two weeks ago the word “Borax” came out of the mouth of, yes, my plumber as he was replacing the o-ring on the toilet and setting a new faucet in the kitchen sink. And your essay with your maintenance assistant popped into my mind, hysterically, as I don’t stock any toxic cleaners!! My tiny bit to save the planet. Plumber’s younger eyes went wide open in “unbelievable”.

    Friday, I continued to prepare my property for sale. At 11am I went to change my clothes because I needed to run up to my vet’s office to pickup meds, for my dogs staph infection, which is when I noticed a rash all over my back and stomach. What!??? I called my doc’s office immediately to just let my doc know that I thought I was experiencing high anxiety…just to report the rash. That rash went through my arms symmetrically into the palm of my hands out to my fingers within a 24 hour period.

    Reading your essay, “unpacking”, home, reached me at exactly the right timing! I have no known home to go to… and it is completely unknown if my property will sell. I’m on the take 5 minute chucks at a time. Our health: body and mind are so connected. Last night I thought that my body was responding similar to a visual meditation of breathe the positive energy and release the negative energy. I have a hunch that is what was happening in real time on Friday.

    Saturday, my potential realtor set a “coming soon” signage with my okay and anticipation to sign exclusive sales agreement and photo shoot Monday morning. It made it real!

    Nothing else is happening right now, until it does. 5 minute chunks.
    …that feeling of anxiety about to step off the red curb.

    Your home is lovely!!!

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