We’re moving. The upcoming reality leaves me entertaining an uneasy, unpleasant thought—we must say ‘goodbye’ to this beloved house. I wonder if there is an Anglican liturgical construct for saying goodbye to your home? It would be easier to follow a set ritual than to invent a unique one just for 309 Wayside Road West.
Recently Chris brought up the idea of having a ceremony of some sort. He and I have done that. The evening before our family left the U.S.A. to live in Russia in1993 when we decided to say ’goodbye’ to our homeland; first, by making a final trip to the donut shop to enjoy our favorites and then by stopping the car to witness a gorgeous Rocky mountain sunset while singing “America the Beautiful” (all the verses) overlooking the Pike’s Peak reflected golden glory.
Just before that our family said ‘farewell ’ to our wonderful Hopkins Farmdale home and some time after that did the same to my childhood home, which had been in our family for some fifty years before I had to sell it and empty it after moving my mother out of it into assisted living setting miles away.
So, here I am, twenty-some years after that, sorting boxes for another move. This move is unlike the others in that we’re opening and sorting and processing a vast LaTondresse archeological dig, which spans many years and numerous sides of both of our family trees. It takes a lot of time because we actually feel compelled to look at the stuff partly because this time around Andre and I are the gatekeepers for our two grandsons (with a third on the way, due in October!)
We have boxes labeled ‘Claire – Before Russia’ and we have boxes labeled ‘Barbara’s Writings’, and Andre’s father’s college diploma, and my mother’s love letters. Many of these musty, dusty boxes haven’t seen the light of day for a very long time.
We discovered 100s of bobbers my dad apparently bought at Wal-Mart while mom shopped for other things. Clippings of Aunt Ruth’s hair in envelopes labeled ‘Aunt Ruth Age 84.’ My mother’s high heeled red cowboy boots. Christopher’s incredible drawings created when he was in first grade with Mrs. Johnson and Andre’s mother’s artwork. My old brass trumpet. Andre’s first teddy bear.
Unexpectedly I uncovered an unfinished poem, with words crossed out and arrows between thoughts, scribbled on a small note pad apparently penned during one of my moves. I do not think this one is about our move from Farmdale Road in Hopkins, because I lost that home too quickly to process it, sold before the sign went up, as we hastily threw our belongings in boxes and flew to Akademgorodok, Russia.
I rather think it is about losing my childhood Elgin home since I was alone, had a bit of time to think, with my family half a world away in Russia. It only seems right to finish it, right now, in the middle of preparation for selling our Wayside Road Hopkins home.
The juxtaposition of this poem’s genesis in Elgin in 1995 and rediscovery in Hopkins in 2018 makes sense and echoes Andre’s heartbreaking words of conclusion in his sad FB post yesterday about destroying his father’s cabinets. He says:
“Just spent time disassembling (demolishing) two chests my dad designed and built at some point in his life. Just a couple of storage chests. May be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.” 22 May 2018
I agree, Andre.
This move may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Put the finishing touches on death.
Those initial thrusts, powerfully driven
Suggest you’ve killed before.
And you know you have.
Once the resolve is there
The blows must be quick or
The walls will wail and moan
And you will be repulsed,
Too squeamish to finish the job.
The broad brush strokes are easy.
First, pry open those musty attic doors.
Wade thru ancient cardboard boxes
into the womb-like recesses of the tomb.
Quickly dig up dusty artifacts: time boxed photos,
Souvenirs, love letters, genealogies, clothes, toys or books.
Fishing bobbers? Clippings from Aunt Ruth’s hair?
Pick up the piles of old Christmas cards, check stubs, yellowed bills.
No time to sort one by one so into the trash they go to be burned
Along with the memories left not uncovered in them.
Next the closets of clothes and sheets and towels.
Goodwill gets them all.
Something inside me gets thrown away, too.
So put those finishing touches of death.
Find the courage to go on with it
Until everything is tomb quiet: still, empty.
The rooms are silent, deep and dark–
Awkwardly mysterious yet coldly familiar.
So I will leave them that way.
Nothing’s left to soften the echo
as I shut the front door for the last time.
by Barbara LaTondresse
23 May 2018
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