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I should be in bed, but I’m still awake and it seemed remiss to not comment on tonight, if only briefly.

In the morning, I will get up and put on what BWB and I affectionately call “grown-up clothes”, also known as work-appropriate attire. I will then go to the hall closet and take out the coat I spent most of the evening prepping. It is a long, white lab coat with my name embroidered on the right side with the initials MD after it, and the name of my hospital on the other. My ID badge is already attached to the lapel, my prescription pad is in one pocket, a pocket reference text in another, and still another holds a granola bar, my wallet, and some chewing gum. Other than looking terribly new, it is a bona fide doctor’s coat, and it is mine.

My friend C recently graduated from nursing school and has been having approximately the same experience as I have during orientation the last few weeks. We’ve been texting each other photographs of ourselves in our new attire, pictures of our ID badges that indicate our new positions, and sharing virtual glee over being given our signature stamp — because the stamp makes everything official.

Today I sent him a photo of myself in my coat, following one from him in his nursing uniform. He responded back, “So official and profesional!! Do you think they can see our fear deep down?”

“I sure hope not!!”

Because it’s true. I’m quaking in my cute yet sensible flats. Today I was introduced to a patient as “Dr. Girl” for the first time, and I think my heart skipped a few beats with shock. What if I can’t remember anything I’ve learned in medical school? What if the senior doctors think I am an idiot? What if I AM an idiot? What if I screw up someone’s medication? What if I make a mistake? There are so many systems in place to prevent anything major from happening that I know it’s not really worth worrying about, but the part where I look like a fool? That seems less unlikely.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited, too, and proud to have made it to this point. But tonight my nerves are reigning supreme, and that is why I am still awake at this late hour. I am afraid of letting everyone else down, but I think even more than that I am afraid of disappointing myself, having come this far.

But there’s no getting around it. In a few very short hours, the time will arrive and so will I, in whatever condition five hours of sleep and the butterflies in my stomach allow.

Tomorrow morning, when I walk into the hospital as doctor (a lowly intern, but still a doctor), it will be the end of a very, very long road. Through that door, I will take the first steps into the next phase of the journey, in my very new, very long coat.

In all of the talk leading up to our move, BWB has been very focused on it only being for a year. It’s been so heart-wrenching to say goodbye to our friends and to leave our city that he kept telling people we would be back next year. And hopefully, we will be. We have our fingers crossed that the match this year will finally work out for us, and that we’ll find ourselves back in New Orleans again this time next June.

Still, the way he kept saying it was bothering me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. After some thought, I came up with an answer.

When I was four, we moved from a small town to a small city. It was supposed to be just for a year or two, and so I approached the situation as temporary. It wasn’t until six years later, when we moved from one permanent house to another, that it dawned on me that we were not, in fact, moving back to the small town I still for some reason thought of as home. This perception of impermanence colored how I interacted with the city I grew up in. After watching the documentary BRATS: Our Journey Home with my father, I realized that not only did this movie give me insight into his childhood, but it explained a little bit about mine, too. The expectation of leaving made it harder to feel rooted to any place or person, even though in my case that expectation was false.

It would be easy to approach New City with this same transience, to resist putting down any solid foundations or making any solid connections here. After all, we think we’re only going to be here for a year. Or will it be three years? Or five? It could be five. And even if it is a year, aren’t we doing a disservice to ourselves to spend a year feeling disconnected and disjointed? I brought this up with BWB, and we talked about it.

It’s true that this town is only going to be home for a year. It is, however, still going to be home. Rather than rest here only long enough to take off again, we have made the decision to land here with our full weight, build a nest, and settle in. It might make leaving harder when we go, but the time between now and then will be richer for it.

This afternoon, my phone rang.

“Hello?”
“Yes, is this White Horse Girl?”
“…yes?”
“And did you go to New Orleans University?”
“……yes?”
“And are you in New City right now?”
“…who is this?”
“Oh, this is Angel from the Hospital Public Safety. We found your keys.”
“I’m sorry, what?”

At this point, I scrambled through my purse to establish that, in fact, my keys were missing. We were in BWB’s car, and had long since left the hospital lot, so I had no idea they weren’t still safely tucked in. I still have no idea how they fell out, but lo and behold, they had.

“Yes, well, it was quite difficult to find you. See, I saw your name on your keyring there, and I looked but I just couldn’t find you in our system. So then I saw the New Orleans University gym tag, and I called them. And they wouldn’t tell me anything, and I said, oh but I have her keys! See I have her name and her ID number — I bet she’s even a doctor now, isn’t that right? Or a nurse or something? And they said yes… and they finally gave me your phone number. I had to convince them, though, they didn’t want to give it to me.”

Yes, that’s right. This amazing, sweet woman who works in public safety at the hospital administration building not only found my keys, but when she couldn’t find me in her system, made a long distance phone call to coax my phone number out of my former university, based on the keyring favor I had made for my wedding party and the tag to the university gym.

I am flabbergasted, to say the least. Amazed that she cared so much and was willing to go to such lengths for someone she’d never even met. It’s touching, and it makes me feel good to know that people like her still exist in this world.

How’s that for a warm fuzzy?

I went to boarding school in the age before email, or at least before it became common and easy. My mother the writer sent me actual letters, which I received in an actual mailbox, and I would read these actual pieces of paper over lunch. (Actual lunch? It was boarding school food, that’s debatable.) Some were short notes, some were newspaper clippings, sometimes comics she found funny. She still does this, by the way; the quantity of actual, physical, handwritten mail that arrives at my house regularly astounds my friends. That, however, is a subject for another time.

One such letter contained a copy of the following poem. On the back, my mother wrote about how much it reminded her of me, that I was so often motivated to “eat the last meal in my old neighborhood.” That clipping was posted on my wall through college and beyond, and I still have it. I think it’s in a box somewhere. (That’s a joke, in case you missed it. Sigh.) I wonder if she knew, writing on that scrap of paper, how prescient her words were.

Re-read the instructions on your palm. Find how the lifeline, broken, keeps its direction. Have faith, and move forward.

Shooting Script
Adrienne Rich

Whatever it was, the image that stopped you, the one on which you
came to grief, projecting it over & over on empty walls.

Now to give up the temptations of the projector; to see instead the
web of cracks filtering across the plaster.

To read there the map of the future, the roads radiating from the
initial split, the filaments thrown out from that impasse.

To reread the instructions on your palm; to find there how the
lifeline, broken, keeps its direction.

To read the etched rays of the bullet-hole left years ago in the
glass; to know in every distortion of the light what fracture is.

To put the prism in your pocket, the thin glass lens, the map
of the inner city, the little book with gridded pages.

To pull yourself up by your own roots; to eat the last meal in
your old neighborhood.

Last night as I fell asleep, I had an image of our house.

We stayed at a friend’s house last night, and the couch was much more comfortable than the slightly leaky twin sized air mattress that my husband and I are sharing at the moment. It was late, since we had stayed up talking until far too early in the morning, and after the last week of moving my exhaustion was rapidly overtaking me as the lights went out.

In my half-awake state, I saw the house we’ve lived in for the last year, our awkwardly shaped, sideways shotgun house in New Orleans. My mind drifted through the rooms we’ve grown to love — our bright and airy bedroom, the strange loft space we had only just gotten the hang of using to its full potential, the kitchen built for an NBA player. The furniture faded to nothing, and I saw the house empty, and it hit me that I will not be returning there. My bed is not waiting for me to return to it, my desk is on a truck somewhere, and the kitchen is no longer taunting me with cabinets well out of my reach.

We don’t live there anymore, in those empty rooms.

As I write this, I sit in a different, equally empty room. The truck with all of our furniture is supposedly going to arrive sometime at the end of the week, maybe, if all goes well, but it’s not definite yet. The uncertainty is not helping my state of mind, I have to tell you. Our new house is a funny little cottage, perfectly sized for two people. We have grand plans for decorating and furnishing this place. It will be our home. Eventually.

Right now, though, all I have are a whole lot of empty rooms.

Contents:
1 Kiddush Cup, Tree of Life design
1 Menorah
1 Box of leftover Hanukkah candles
1 The Modern Jewish Mom’s Guide to Shabbat
1 Yahrzeit candle
1 Wedding/Shabbat shawl, aka future Baptismal blanket (God willing)
1 Wall Cross, Tree of Life design
1 Set of Islamic Prayer Beads sent to my grandfather in his last hours

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