Friday, January 13, 2012

Packing Up

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.


  1. Geez Mandy that sounds so incredibly difficult. I can barely begin to imagine what it must feel like. Keep holding on to the faith that she will be with you wherever you are. And luckily it sounds like you have had so many great memories, so many of which you have saved or recorded in someway that they will never be forgotten. Thinking of you. -subha

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  3. I get it...I don't know what it will take for me to ever leave this house where Matt and Lauren grew up. Matt was 4 1/2 when we moved in, so almost all of his life was here---here in the blue carpet he picked out for his room, in the door that still has all his surfing stickers (even though he didn't surf), in the driveway where he learned to skate on Christmas morning, here in all those intangibles, all those memories. I had a dream not too long after his death that we were building a house in Asheville, and I had gotten the contractor to take out the stair treads in our house that Matt had gone up and down so many times from young childhood until his death. We were going to take them with us to install in the new house so that we would always, still, go up and down together.

    I read shortly after that in one of my "medium" books that we shouldn't worry about moving, even though it feels like we are leaving our children behind...the comment essentially was "they will be where you are, no problem" which I don't doubt for a minute. But as you said, even KNOWING that, it still feels like you are leaving so, so much behind in all those memories that you made with Hudson. Today I read something that said that making changes and building new memories somehow feels as thought we are "erasing" our deceased children from our lives---and even though we KNOW that could never happen, it's still too damn scary to even contemplate. As you go forward, I hope you will hold on to Hudson's hand...she is leading you, she is always there, and the memories, Mandy, are in your heart where they will always be safe.

  4. Oh Mandy, this sounds so hard. My heart aches for you. I was just thinking about your move as I was getting dinner ready this evening and I was wondering how you were doing with it. Homes are so full of memories and emotions. I'll be thinking of you and wishing you strength and peace as you pack. I'm sorry you're having to face yet another life change without your sweet girl. She is with you, just not in the way you want her, and that is so unfair. Hugs.

  5. I have no words. I have only hugs and tears. I'm sorry.

  6. What an incredibly moving post, Mandy. Once you're gone, when we pass your old house, we'll think of Hudson and Jackson and you and Ed and miss you.

  7. I can't imagine I could ever have words to help.. just understanding.. and thoughts of light headed your way.

  8. Gosh, this breaks my heart Mandy. I can't even imagine how it must feel to start packing the house up. I pray that there are moments in Chapel Hill that can remind you of Hudson's wonderful spirit.