Tonight I climbed into bed, teeth unbrushed, and hid my head under my pillow. What's wrong? Jeremy asked, peeking under the edge of the pillow. Nothing I said, although that was a big lie because clearly everything is wrong. Our house is a mess of boxes and blank walls. We drank milkshakes this afternoon for "lunch" in an effort to further deplete the contents of our fridge and freezer. And when are we going to return the cable box, take down our trampoline, and cart off old paint cans to the paint can cemetery...wherever that is?
I have one week left and our close friends and family are beginning to flock to our side, as if attending to the terminally ill. We love their ministrations. We love the memories and moments we're filing away to keep us warm in Chicago this winter. But at the end of the day we can't decide if we don't ever want to get off the couch again so that this feeling of togetherness will last, or if we should just shoot the damn horse already.
I kept my head buried beneath my pillow until I fell asleep. Going to bed early was probably a good idea, except that twenty minutes later my cell phone buzzed on my nightstand and I shot straight up in the air. It took a few minutes for my heart to settle down, and for me to remember what is wrong. Oh, that's right. We're moving. Nothing feels normal anymore.
It might as well have been seven o'clock in the morning because sleep suddenly felt unthinkable. I could sneak downstairs and pack some boxes, I reasoned, but at ten o'clock on a Sunday night that's just depressing. I could always try writing about it, I thought to myself with uncharacteristic shyness. I have hardly written this summer simply because I can't decide if I'm too full, or too empty. I'm both. I have so much inside of me that I'm trying to make sense of, and yet there isn't a part of my brain that isn't exhausted. Should we stop in Omaha or drive straight through? I need to make that deposit for our utilities in Chicago. The girls still need new tennis shoes for school. Dance registration is on August 5th. Should I try and bring my good olive oil? Should I lower the price on my Craig's Listed items, send them to Goodwill or take them with us? When would be a good time to let my girls say their final goodbye to their friends?
It is a goodbye ritual I can't do without to spend a little bit of time in each room of my house just to remember. So far I haven't summoned the courage. Truthfully, I'm kind of mad at our house. We bought a house with four bedrooms so that we could stay for a long, long time. I had big plans for this house, and it feels as though we're packing it in early. It feels unrealized. But it isn't my house's fault and I don't want to walk away next week leaving it feeling unloved and orphaned because all things considering, we had a good run. I stood for hours at the island in my kitchen teaching my teenage neighbor who lives across the street how to make homemade rolls. I pinned streamers above the bar on every single one of my girls' birthdays. The circular landing at the top of our stairs is where we knelt to say family prayers, and where most of our evening wrestle-mania and romping took place. I brought two of my babies home from the hospital to this house. With the help of close friends and family we painted nearly every room. We planted our first garden in the backyard, taught our older girls to ride a two-wheeler, and sat on our deck watching the sun slip behind the Rocky Mountains.
I've been working on my list of what my time in Colorado has given me. To an outsider it might appear random and nonsensical, but this list feels precious, like a kind of inheritance entrusted to me by the sisters, friends, neighbors and loved ones who were the furniture in my life for these few, brief years.
It was during this period that I learned, really, really learned what kind of mother I want to be. It began with me coming to understand that like any old cake recipe, motherhood can be as simple or as complex as you choose. I've spent these years surrounded by wonderful mothers. I've borrowed their secrets. I've listened to their tips and complaints. I've researched ingredients and spent my time in the kitchen crafting a recipe that would work for my life, for my children. I'm so overwhelmed and grateful for the motherhood immersion program that has been my life here.
I'm not going to write a paragraph about every item on my list, but I want to briefly mention a few more of the big ones. My time here taught me that beautiful is for every woman and it looks different on each of us. I've learned that to be a good neighbor is to be a good friend. That creativity is this rampant, unstoppable force...just looking at my friends' homes, their children's birthday invitations, the way they take photographs or sew nightgowns. I'm constantly in awe of how people can take something unremarkable and replace it with something thoughtful and original. I have come to love the way people in Colorado are not joking around about physical fitness and health. I love the way the landscape insinuates itself into everyone's hobbies and leisure activities so that it's hiking, running, or camping as much as humanly possible. In Colorado I learned what hard work looks like, and that really, really hard times will not break me. And at a more personal level, it was here in Colorado that much of the steam that's been burning in my stomach for years, steam left over from childhood struggles and family battle axes, has finally, finally cooled. Jeremy will be the first to tell you that I rarely, if ever, take the war path anymore. In the past two years I've pretty much stopped arguing with people and have let go of my determination to change their mind. The quiet that has come to my life in the wake of these personal changes has astonished me. I feel as though much of the dust and grit in the air has finally settled, and wouldn't you know it was me who was kicking it up all along?
I'd like to think we're going to leave this place a little prettier than we found it. Jeremy and I were talking the other night, both of us hoping that we've smoothed over any rough patches and made right any wrongs so that we can move forward without leaving anyone or anything worse for the wear. We have loved our time in Colorado. We love our family and friends here, and given the chance we'd come back in a second. But for now, it's about time to turn off the porch light. There are plenty of other lights aglow on our street and so one darkened porch shouldn't leave too much of a dent. But in my heart of hearts I hope that every now and then somebody will drive past our yellow house and remember what it looked like when there were lights in the windows. When we still belonged to this place.