What I Left Behind
It was the last time I ever locked that door.
I was leaving for the final time.
There were times when I would come home, carrying loads of whatever I was bringing home that day and close the door, leaving the keys in the lock on the outside. Occasionally a passing jogger or neighbor would ring my doorbell and politely hand me my keys (always with that raised eyebrow thing), but usually I’d only figure it out when I left home the next day, locking the door behind me.
But July 10, 2016 was the last time I ever locked that door. I was leaving for the last time. Pulling up stakes. Completely. My precious cats, Chloe and Zeeva, were already gone to a babysitter before they went to their new home with Heather. (For whom I am eternally grateful.)
Not only was I leaving my house – the first and only one ever bought just by me alone – I was leaving pretty much everything I had collected over the years that made it into my home.
The big purple sofa where I can still see my young friend, Reem, curled up to watch back-to-back episodes of Mad Men. The oil paintings I purchased from an artist in the Cardo in Jerusalem. The piles of jewelry from Africa.
The beautiful bed that was my grandmother’s. Most all of my clothes and shoes. Christmas ornaments, china, the big fluffy chair where I used to sit in front of the fire on snowy DC days with my pups, Pip and Leroy.
I walked through each room and said good bye. I ran my fingers over the carvings in the huge pie safe my mom found and restored decades ago. The inside had been covered in years of grease from an untold number of pies. It now held my sweaters – no need for them where I was going.
I looked out the windows of my bedroom where tree limbs full of green leaves filled my view in the summer and sometimes heavy with snow in the winter.
I reflected on my many trips to Israel, saying bye to a mirror I had converted from an old tray I bought in a Druse market there. Remembered the day in a Catholic orphanage in Zambia looking at a joyful and bright painting by a young girl who lived there.
I stood for a long time looking into the half bath where I used to keep the litter box…missing my cats and praying for their well-being. And the kitchen island where I sat most often working on my laptop, talking with friends, watching my cats watch the squirrels through the window. Occasionally a squirrel plastered its nose from the other side, looking back at the cats.
I stood in my son’s room maybe the longest.
It was Oliver’s room when I bought the house, even though he went off to college just three months later.
It was so important to me that he always have a room of his own wherever I lived.
That he knew he always had a home no matter where he was.
As I wandered through 716 Queen Street for the very last time, I was saying good-bye to more than my house and the things in it. I was saying good-bye to my son as a child under our little family roof. While he hadn’t lived with me for years, he came home to visit and spend hours with me at that kitchen island, sharing things we wanted each other to see online or just talking.
No matter where he was going next, he always had a home and I always had bits of him there in his room and bath. Old t-shirts and high school books. Socks left in the dryer – or under the bed. His handwritten notes on the white board over his desk. His smell. This was the last nest I had built with my son, who is now a man, but always my only child.
So this time, when I locked the front door, it was anything but routine or thoughtless. I drove away pretty fast – had to return my cable box and catch a plane. But I did make a final slow drive by after leaving Comcast, on my way to Reagan National.
On my way to Bali I visited Oliver in Miami. He had a room for me. And I think I left a t-shirt.