Originally, we’d decided to put Jackson in day care this spring so that I would have time for the extra work that would come up at my adjunct professor job at GW in the spring. Then, when we decided to move back to Chapel Hill in the late spring or summer, we knew that I’d also need some extra time to get the house ready to put on the market in March, which means packing up a lot of our extra junk and clutter.
Well, Jackson was in school for 5-6 hours for four days this week, and I haven’t managed to get much more done than my regular household chores, chores that I used to do on top of working nearly full-time and managing a kid in day care. Finally, I realized that I have just been procrastinating. I told Ed that I thought it was because every room in the house has something of Hudson’s that I’d have to start packing away. But today, I understood for the first time what I’ve really been dreading.
I decided to start with something I thought would be the least loaded with memory and emotion—sorting through the books in a bookcase in our TV room and deciding which books to give away and which to keep. I was about half done when I looked up, saw the half-empty bookcase, and promptly wept.
One of Hudson’s favorite pastimes once she started to crawl was to sit in front of that bookcase and pull the books out one by one onto the floor. I can’t even tell you how much time I spent putting books back in their places on the shelves. Towards the end (it astounds me how easily I can say and write that now—“towards the end,” “just before she died,” “when she died”), I had just been starting to teach her to put the books back herself.
I looked at the half-empty bookcase, and it suddenly dawned on me that Jackson will never get the pleasure of pulling those books down once I’ve packed them away.
A second later came the realization that when we leave this house, we’ll be leaving the only home Hudson ever knew. The only home we ever knew her in. The only place where she ever opened and closed all the cabinets and drawers and bent up the mini-blinds trying to see out the windows and learned to climb stairs and left handprints on the storm door as she stood with her dear Bess-dog looking out at all the exciting things passing by on the street. Once we leave this place, those memories will exist only in our memories. No more will I be able to open the bottom drawer next to the stove and find the old cardboard paper towel tube I used to keep there just for her to play with. No more will I be able to open the junk drawer and find a sheet of star stickers that she’d used to decorate the Mother’s Day cards we sent out just before she died. No more will I be able to climb the stairs from the basement and remember how I used to make a game of it with her, sticking my fingers under the closed door to draw her attention and then pulling them away just as she leaned over to grab them.
Even though I know absolutely that moving back to Chapel Hill is the right decision for us and even though I know absolutely that she will be with us no matter where we go, I dread the task of packing up the life we had with her here. I’m not just packing away her photos or her things or the things she played with—that alone will be hard enough, I know. But on top of that, I’m packing up 90% of the memories we ever made with her. When the moving truck is full and we close these doors for the last time, we’ll be leaving behind forever the only home we ever shared with her.
As with every single step of this terrible journey, I am just not ready for this one. And as with every single step of this terrible journey, I have no choice but to take it.