Wednesday, April 16, 2014

moving on again

This is long one, a personal one .... a letter to something I've loved, though this goodbye is a timely and much needed change. 

I'm packing up our home today. packing and crying.  assuring my girls that these intense, sudden bursts of tears are beautiful, healthy medicine.  Nona says, "I know, Mommy."   I smile and breathe a sigh of relief because they're good with tears, their own and those of others.  They learned this comfort here in this house, where they learned most of the good stuff they know (and the bad). 

 Today is the anniversary of my mother's death.  I had a memory as I stood, arms propped on a box of her belongings, taking a break from packing to cry some more:  my body was in the exact same position the last time I stood over this box, when I was about to move it from her home in Tennessee to my home in Virginia.  I had a ten month old baby on my back then.  The box was in her garage, which had been being prepped to become a larger kitchen. her dreams and plans... there were so many, so much change in her life.  I stood in her garage crying, hands propped on that box, trying to imagine how I would have the strength to get through that sort of move.  I couldn't see myself doing it, getting from there to here. 

Yesterday was the day I counted how many times I've moved in my life.  nineteen times.  wrapping, packing, unpacking.  I like to count, to group things together, see patterns.  Today was the day I realized that the last time I did this moving, I was packing up my parent's home.  I hadn't counted that one yesterday.  amazing  how such a realization could go undiscovered until the day I start sorting, wrapping and packing up this house. amazing that I find myself doing this work on the anniversary of my mother's death.  It's a blessing.  Moving my body in this way, doing these tasks brings it all up and out again, all the parts I haven't  thought so much about, since.....  the packing of her things, the letting go, the caring for two small children through it all.  the finding out about people.... which ones were true and which weren't.... those losses, too.  At times I felt I'd lost everyone but my children.  and I was furious for their loss.  and for my parents loss... that other people would get to know my children, but they wouldn't.  I was furious about so many things, things that had been buried, things that were new.  

 I keep moving today in the same way as then, keep crying, though these tears are different.  It feels good, like scratching an itch.  I know this pain, I know what to do with it and I know where I'm going. 

I think about how much has happened in our lives since moving into this home.   We moved here just after my father's death.  I was thirty-four weeks pregnant with our youngest.  It was such a complicated time.... grieving a father, a place, and feeling such joyous anticipation for this new life, trying to stay as emotionally stable as possible for her.   I gave birth to June in my bedroom here.  It was perfect and beautiful.  All of her firsts were here.  and many of Nona's, too.  I think they will forever be frozen in my mind at ages five and a half and three.  always in their underwear, even in winter.  messy brown hair.  their voices.  their feet pitter pattering on the floors, such distinct sounds from one another.  their little toes.

I learned to sew here, to love making clothes.  Learned to knit, which I do now in my mother's knitting chair in our living room.  I see why she chose it, the chair and the knitting.  Her last project was a red sweater for Nona.  My mom's friend (the one who taught her to knit, the one I didn't know well before my mother's death but who stuck by our sides through it all and continues to be a dear friend) finished knitting the sweater for her.  for us.  so we could "keep those precious stitches".   I am knitting a sweater now.

This home has seen me through the most difficult, beautiful and intense period of self-discovery.  I broke down here, fell apart and rebuilt myself.  rediscovered.   I became a woman here, one who sees her flaws with honesty and loves herself anyway.... most of the time.  This is the place where I learned to really share and trust, to know what I want, and how to give. 

I saw my mother for the last time here in this house. We were hanging one of those flag banners in Nona's room.   She stood there with her suitcase, waiting for my husband to take her to the airport.   "Move the right side up a bit, sweetheart. That's it.  Perfect.  Here's Chris, I have to go."  I took a good, long look at her and smiled, "You know I don't like to say goodbye. Can you just tell me you'll see me in a month?  I love you, Mom."   She smiled, "I love you, Kristen.  I'll see you next month, sweetheart."
I'll take the flag banner down tomorrow.

This place is the last place she knew where to find me, knew our life.  In her last memories, this is where we are. I think I've had this worry that some part of her will be lost when we go.  Or maybe the worry is that some part of me will be lost to her....  lost to myself, too.  My parents were the lone knowers of some parts of me.  Sometimes I feel those parts have been lost.  They haven't.  It's up to me now to actively remember, give myself what my parents gave me, see what they saw,  share it.  know what to hold close and what to let vanish.  vanishing bits aren't all bad. 

We found our new home on the new moon.  We weren't planning to move, but the stars aligned, and there it was.  Our new neighborhood and home is so much of what I've been wishing for over the last few years.  So much the girls have wished for.   It's going to be really good.   We'll be there in two weeks, unpacking.  I look at my living room now and I can't imagine getting from here to there.  But I know I will.


  1. Amazing piece of writing, Kristen — you've brought me to tears!

  2. Oh Kristen... how do i tell you all that is in my heart? you have stirred so much in me up to the surface. feelings about what i have been through with the death of my own mother, and having to go through her things and sell her house, feelings about wanting a family and two girls of my own, feelings about what that will be like when they are here, the joy of their arrival and of being witness to them, and also the sadness that my mum will not be here for that, and also feelings in my heart for you my dear friend, and sadness for your sadness, and admiration of your beauty and bravery. thank you for sharing this moment and giving me the opportunity to feel things that have been just under my surface these past few weeks. and thank you for creating the space to feel the support of others, you are not alone, you will get there. and the one thing i have learned in letting people and places go... is that you take them with you :)

    please post when you are in your new home!
    love to you and the girls!

    1. just seeing this. thank you for this. and thank *you*, sweet friend, for the feeling you've helped me do. many a time you have helped me stir and process.... it's been such an integral part of my journey and healing. I've really felt your wisdom and heart with me over the last few weeks, in particular, helping me along. so so much love to you!!!!

  3. What a beautiful post, Kristen. I've gone through a similar time of emotional intensity. While the circumstances are totally different, the existential pain and joy (comingling) are seemingly identical. You're not alone.

  4. Hey, condolences to your mother, whom I'm sure is looking down at you right now, happily watching as your life unfolds. Life does take a lot of detours, which tend to build upon each other. Momentum is constant in it, so the best that you can do is keep up. I understand how you feel. It's really hard to move on if you have so much memories, which in your case is your house. I hope you're done with the whole packing thing, or at least, that you have been going through it wonderfully.

    Clay Delgado @ World Packaging Inc.

  5. Long time lurker, first time commenter. This was beautiful.

    1. Thank you, Bridget! It's nice to hear from you.... and to know you've been lurking ; )

  6. Oddly enough I am in Virginia now (I don't usually live here) and just said goodbye to my mother and father at the airport. Mom said, 'you don't need to get out of the car and give me a hug. You know that I love you, and so forth.' Very characteristically. I'm back at the house on my grandparents' farm where my mom grew up (it's a trailer park now and the farmhouse is boarded up and I understand the idea of 'haunted' to sit on a crumbling porch that was always well kept before). I thought your expression of this moment of life's change was very poignant.