It's 1:00 AM, the last night in my house. I have resolved to write something that is not about this very sad life upheaval I am experiencing.
But tonight will not be that writing.
Tonight (rather, this morning), I'm going to write about saying good-bye, about memories.
I just finished sifting through memories. Literally. Sifting. Through tons of memories. I've packed up my glasses and dishes and towels and utensils and clothes and other important things one must have to basically operate a household and life, but then I remembered that one cabinet in the dining room I meant to go through but forgot to. And so I sat and pulled out...stuff. Stuff that has been sitting in this cabinet for almost 7 years, if not more.
And what I found were memories. Mostly in the form of pictures, but also other memories. Memories I haven't remembered for a very long time.
I found tons of love notes from my very first boyfriend, Sam Harder, who also gave me my very first kiss (in the back of my dad's car...WHILE MY DAD WAS DRIVING) (Sam Harder lacked important social skills and suaveness, but I'm going to forgive him because he was 14 and he wrote me those notes that were folded up intricately like origami, and at the end of his love notes he always--seriously, every single one and I have about 25--signed off: LOVE, SAM HARDER. He was also a semi-orphan; I say semi- because his mother was still alive. She just didn't want him. At the age of 10, he'd been dumped by her into the foster care system and was living in a home with other boys who'd also been dumped into the system by their parents. I remember one time Sam came to our house for dinner and my brother and I argued about something trivial and Sam quietly let us know we shouldn't argue like that about such trivial things because at least we had each other...some people didn't have anybody. I remember that.
At the time, I was too busy being stupid and 14 to really get what Sam was saying, and also I'd already decided to break up with Sam because he'd--HORRORS--kissed me on the lips in the back of my dad's car WHILE MY DAD WAS DRIVING and who the hell DOES crap like that?? But now, as a 43 year old mother who's leaving her marriage with a very sad-yet-not-sad 6 year old in tow, I get it: don't argue about trivial things so much; be thankful there's someone there who cares enough to talk to you.)
And I found love emails and poetry from a New Jersey boy who'd loved me a lot...I was in Arizona, he was in New York. His name was Vincent, and he made movies. He wrote scripts, got his friends to act in them, and shot them all over Manhattan and Hoboken. He loved that I wrote, and I still have a book about writing he gave me one Christmas, in which he wrote a sweet note, encouraging me to follow my dreams and hone my talents. I remember, to get to where he worked, he took the train from Hoboken into New York City, right into one of the World Trade Centers. I visited Vincent once, and he took me to the top of the World Trade Center--when I went back to New York City years later, I stood for a long time, staring from my hotel room's window at the two bright spotlights that shine where the towers stood and I remembered standing at the very top of them. And I wondered: how many memories are up there now, in that spot in the sky, of people standing at the top of the World Trade Center in awe, or just of people working there. And dying.
Tonight I thought about Vincent, and hoped, for the billionth time, he didn't take the train into Manhattan on September 11, 2001. (On September 12, 2001, I emailed Vincent at the last email address I had for him...and got no response. And so I hope you are out there still and okay, Vincent Rodriguez. I hope.)
I found postcards from Holland my dad sent me when he went there on a business trip (it rained...THE WHOLE TIME). I found a letter my family wrote me when I was 12, away at Girl Scout Horse Camp for a week (my mom wrote that they saw Star Trek III without me and planned to see GREMLINS next, my dad wrote he was sad to only have my brother to yell at, and my brother called me a butthead. Such was my family in the 1980s). I found my autographed Skid Row and Ricky Martin posters--two slightly separate eras, two very different Amys. I found a postcard from my old friend Kirstie, from Danville, Kentucky, who used to write plays in the backyard with me and then we'd coerce my little brother and his friends into acting in them with us...she wrote that she missed watching GENERAL HOSPITAL with me.
I found an essay I wrote about my mom, in which I noted that some moms do really great things like find the cure for cancer or run their own business and make lots of money...not my mom. Nope, mine was just an ordinary, plain old mom. And those are probably the best kinds of moms to have. (Seriously, who wants an exciting mom? CIA operative mom? Psh. Always snooping into your private business. NASA rocket scientist mom? No way! Always talking programming code. Just give me a mom who reads books, cleans haphazardly, takes an excruciatingly long time in stores, and watches a lot of Lifetime TV. Just give me one of those...their homemade birthday cakes and spaghetti taste better anyway.)
I found a poem I wrote for my mom, about two little angels who were friends in Heaven. God tells one of the angels: you have an assignment on Earth--get down there! The other little angel begs God to go with her friend but God says nope. I need you here. The little angel is sad, sad, sad. Then, one day God says: you have an assignment on Earth--get down there! The little angel is hopeful that she'll maybe see her friend somewhere. To her great surprise, when she gets down there? Her little angel friend turns out to be her mother--God moved mountains and oceans and all the stuff that God likes to move, JUST so those two little angel friends could be together again...as mother and daughter. (Even as a child, I got it: the Universe is just one gigantic Trickster.)
And I found an essay I wrote when we had to leave one of my childhood homes--all about how houses become homes when memories seep into their walls, corners, floors. I have always been sentimental about homes, it appears.
So it explains why, after taping the last box and then getting Miss M to sleep, I just...sat. I sat by the window and listened to the cacophony going on outside. I've never been sure what these tree frogs do all night throughout June, but I suspect there's a gigantic tree frog orgy going on in the bushes out there. They become particularly randy after a big rainstorm, which we had earlier. Seriously, it was so loud if you'd been sitting and chatting with me, we'd have had to shout at one another. Get a room, tree frogs.
I sat for a very long time in my living room, just remembering all the things that have happened there, the people who've visited that space. The good energy, the sad energy. This house saw me get my master's degree. It watched C and me get really unhappy and briefly separated, then make up and get married. It's where C and I got incredibly unhappy and separated for 7 months, then made up and got pregnant. This house is where my sweet old cat Tasha died in my arms. This was the house I walked a 3 day old Miss M around, showing her every single thing, overstimulating her beyond belief and freaking myself out that I'd not had her home 10 minutes and had already broken her--were there newborn infant psychotherapists? This is where Miss M and I sat for long, long periods...first with her growing inside of me, then nursing from me, then rocking, then crawling, then walking and talking and throwing lots and lots of indignant temper tantrums because demands for more "yawyee-pops" were denied.
This is where many Fourth of July barbecues were had. And where friends came and laughed...and sometimes cried. This is the house that some Caucasian crackheads broke into and robbed, teaching me police officers have really macabre senses of humor about stuff like that and other Caucasians will automatically assume, when you tell them you were robbed, that the thieves were black or Mexican. This is the house C and I painted together. This is the house I chose light fixtures for. This is the house we ripped up the carpeting in and replaced with wood floors and now I never want to live with carpet ever again. This is the house I fell in love with. My very first house.
It sounds like I'm more heartbroken over leaving the house, I know. But really what I'm heartbroken about right now are the memories I'm leaving behind me. Houses are just wood and plaster and brick or stone that will one day either be torn down or lost to ruins. Memories are what make leaving the wood and bricks and stone very hard. You hope the people who buy the wood and bricks and stone are gentle with their memories, and you wonder what kinds of memories they will add. For C and me, I know I'll come back and visit this house a lot. But I'll be a visitor now, and so I hope the memories don't forget me.
Before C went to bed, he gave me a long hug. We both stood in our house, the house we built together, and cried for a long, long time. "We had a good run," he said. "We tried very hard," I said.
And so now, I guess, that's part of this house's memories, too. I find memories both comforting and haunting, all at once.