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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.

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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

20110605-012125.jpg

Any questions?

As I pack up my bookshelves, I am struck by how seemingly random the collection of titles is. Sharing Success–Owning Failure: Preparing to Command in the Twenty-First Century Air Force and Setup: What the Air Force Did in Vietnam and Why are nestled in next to The Best Liberal Quotes Ever.

I have three different translations of the Bible, four different copies of the Book of Common Prayer, a 1982 Hymnal and a combination of the hymnal and prayerbook. These all are kept together with the 365 Tao, book of the I-Ching, and all of the various books on Jewish life and religious practice that we’ve accumulated over the last four years.

My USMLE Study guides and medical textbooks are right next to Herbal Healing for Women, a book on midwifery, and my collection of People’s Pharmacy volumes.

Then of course we run into what is left of my medieval studies library, significantly decreased from the huge stack I left college with. I’ve kept my favorites of the secondary source materials, mostly having to do with women, family structure, and pilgrimage, and most of the primary sources. My best art book, the treasure my parents tracked down for me as a Christmas present, has already found its way onto my sister’s bookshelf, where I can only assume it will get more use than where it sat collecting dust in my house.

The truth is that none of these books are contradictory in the slightest, although at first glance some of them certainly seem to be. They are a direct reflection of who I am and what my journey has been. I am often amused at the reaction people have when they learn something new about me that doesn’t fit with what they have previously determined — they find out I am in the military after hearing me talk about politics, or I say something startling about alternative medicine when they know I have allopathic medical training. I break people sometimes, and they don’t know quite how to handle it.

Much like my books, I don’t fit neatly into a single box or categorization. I don’t think most people do, but I think all of us have a tendency to forget that. I want to try and remember not to make assumptions as we meet our new colleagues in the coming weeks; among other things, I don’t want to close doors before I even bother to realize they are there. I mean, why assume that the straight-laced future cardiologist doesn’t think Harry Potter rocks? Maybe she has a closet full of wizard’s robes and is just waiting for someone to give her the chance to be more than one-dimensional.

Or, perhaps she procrastinates from packing her house by waxing philosophical about what her library says about her. You know, hypothetically.

The to-do list of things to take care of before we move is dauntingly long. It seems like every day another packet arrives by email or snail mail with forms to fill out, forms to be notarized, forms to have pictures attached to, forms to get fingerprinted on, and forms to tuck checks in with when we mail them back. Then there are the actual physical mechanics of moving: decluttering, weeding out which furniture we’re taking an which we aren’t, finding a moving company vs. renting our own truck. It’s getting to be a very long list.

Then there’s the other to-do list.

As soon as we found out we were leaving New Orleans, I started to make a list of stuff I wanted to make sure and do before we leave. Some of it is cramming as much of all of the things I love and will miss the most abut the city into the few weeks we have left, while some of it is doing those touristy things I’ve always meant to do but never made time for. BWB is not a huge fan of this plan, as he is of the opinion that we will be back soon, maybe even next year, and this list is treating our departure as too permanent for his liking. He understands where I’m coming from, though, and is up for the list as much as possible.

The following is my New Orleans “bucket list” as it stands right now. I keep adding to it, but I still hope we’ll get through most of it.

1. Visit the Old New Orleans Rum distillery with my friend H.
2. Go river tubing.
3. Eat as much Cafe du Monde as possible.
4. Eat as many snoballs as possible.
5. Eat as much crawfish as possible.
6. Go to Upperline at least one more time.
7. Take advantage of the $0.25 martini brunch at Commander’s Palace.
8. Take at least one more cheese class at St. James Cheese Co.
9. Attend French Quarter Fest (done!)
10. Visit the WWII museum.
11. Go on a swamp tour.
12. Go on one of the haunted history tours.
13. Ride my bike down the levee trail at least one more time.
14. Play golf with my friend B in City Park.
15. Take a carriage ride in the French Quarter.

As you can see, many of these points clash with my other to-do item, “lose 12 pounds before starting residency”. I think that one may be a lost cause. Losing weight while leaving New Orleans? Please. I’ve got my priorities straight.

In any case, that’s where it stands right now. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of the list. I’m sure it will get longer, but at least this list I’m looking forward to working on!

Nearly two weeks ago now, we received the incredibly good news that we have both matched into residency. Not into our first choice, but in a program which is doing amazing, innovative things and which felt like one of the best options for us. The interviews I had there were among the most up-front and honest of any I experienced on the interview trail, and I am certain this program will be an exceptional place for us to learn.

It was not our first choice, however, because it is not in New Orleans.

It is a little ironic to me that I am immediately following my previous post declaring New Orleans as home with one about having to leave it, and yet here I am. It has been such a roller coaster of emotion, glad to be moving forward, glad to be in a program I liked so much, excited about exploring a new place, but then it occurs to me that I am leaving this place and my heart aches.

It is 80 degrees here this week, mostly sunny although a storm is rolling in tonight. The trees and plants have fluffed out into the proportions of spring, and the tourists seem to be getting in a few more good weeks before the heat gets too bad. French Quarter Fest is two weeks from now, and since we’re close enough to walk this year I’m planning on soaking it up. We still haven’t finished sorting the last of the Mardi Gras beads, and I guess the plans for next year’s costumes are going to have to be on hold. We have invites from friends for dinner, lunch, puppy play dates, and/or coffee every week. I get to feed random friends on a semi-regular basis. We’re finally making inroads at synagogue, and I’m going to miss both our priest and our rabbi.

I’m going to miss New Orleans for its quirky spirit, for the glorious weather, for the community of friends we have here. I’m going to miss walking the dog down to Cafe du Monde for beignets, running in City Park, and knowing that when we go out to dinner, we’re going somewhere local and eating food we can’t find anywhere else. I’m going to miss St. James Cheese Co. and the Creole Creamery and Sucre. I’m even going to miss the bizarre roads that go in strange directions, are full of potholes, and have names that only locals are sure how to pronounce.

We’re determined to come back here as soon as we can, but there’s no telling if it’s going to be next year or ten years from now. I really am grateful for the opportunity ahead of us, and I know we’re going to discover amazing things about the new city, but I’m still sad about leaving this place I’ve come to call home.

BWB and I are moving next week, and there will be a lot of changes in the new place.  It’s on the other side of town, in an area that neither of us has lived in before.  It has an awesome pool, and we don’t share a wall with any neighbors.  There are three floors, which I am sure will prove interesting when trying to get the puppy and his exploding bladder out of the house in the morning.

Also, when we move in to the new house, we’ll have a housemate.

When we first found the house, we had a friend lined up who wanted to move in with us. Unfortunately, after we agreed to the rental, he changed his mind.  He would have been much more of a known quantity, as BWB has lived with him before and we’re good friends with him, but when he backed out we decided we’d go ahead and find someone else.  After running through several other friends, we turned to Craigslist, which is how we found the roommate.  She’s a very nice girl, and she’s bringing her cat and a “fitness pole”.

There are many things about having another person in the house which I’m looking forward to.  She likes to cook, and I think it’ll be fun to have someone to share recipes and ideas with.  She loves dogs, so we won’t have as much trouble figuring out what to do with Asha when we need to go out of town — which will be especially nice given there are at least a few month-long away rotations planned over the next year.  We’re pretty sure her interests (read: geekiness) line up with ours fairly well, and it’ll be fun having someone else in the house to play games with.  Plus, when BWB is on nights, I will feel safer in the house than I would by myself.  The drop in rent from what we’re paying now is no small thing, either.

The closer we get to moving, though, the more I realize there are things I will miss.  Silly things, like not having to worry when the cat pushes the bathroom door open while I’m sitting on the toilet.  And selfish things, like being able to use up all the hot water with a very long shower, or having guests in the house whenever we want.  In the category of probably good for me are things like being able to leave dishes in the sink overnight if I’m feeling lazy, or letting the stinky workout clothes languish on the bathroom floor a little longer than they should.

There’s a freedom in living alone, or with one’s partner, which one just doesn’t have when there is a housemate sharing the space.  It’s been a while since I had a roommate, so some of the details had faded a bit.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I regret our decision — I don’t (yet, knock on wood) — I think it is the best option we have right now, and there are plenty of benefits to the arrangement.   That said, I also think this will just make it sweeter when we are alone in our house once again.

BWB and I are moving at the end of the month.  We’re headed into a beautiful condo which we will share with a housemate.  We love the new place (especially the pool!), but there is a distinct lack of storage space.  As we prepare to move, we are trying to pare down.  Some things, mostly furniture and seasonal items, we will probably put in a small storage unit nearby.  Other things are going to Goodwill.  I’ve been working hard on decluttering for some time now, but I think if anyone were to look into my craft closet as it is right now, she would have a hard time believing the volume of stuff I have already removed.

There will not be a craft closet in the new house, as there is simply not a spare closet.  As I look at the bins, shelves, and bags full of fabric, stuffing, thread, and other assorted crafty items, I find myself wondering what to do with them.  In fact, I find myself thinking perhaps I should let them go.

For over a decade, I was involved with the Society for Creative Anachronism.  I spent a great deal of time and energy working on clothing and other items in a medieval fashion, and collected a large stash of beautiful fabric.  As my involvement dwindled, I kept thinking I would parlay some of my sewing experience into making clothes for myself, and collected a large stash of interesting patterns.  I knit, and have many unfinished projects with their associated yarns, and many more odd balls of yarn leftover from previous projects.  I keep trying to scrapbook, although my success at that endeavor seems mostly limited to assembling bins and bins of pretty stickers, fancy papers, and photographs forlornly waiting in a filing box.  I quilt, and with that comes boxes of colorful fabric scraps — insidious because even the smallest scraps can be held onto with the excuse that they might be useful someday.  And then there are the bags of stuffing, rolls of batting, polybead filling, bottles of glitter, extra zippers, tins of buttons handed down to me from my mother, and all of the assorted associated clutter of the craftaholic.

I love my craft closet.  I love being able to go in there and dig out all kinds of interesting things for projects, when I have the time.  The problem is, I am a tiny bit busy and “when I have the time” is a little rare these days.  In the meantime, the bins of patterns collect dust, the fabric sits unused, and the scrapbooks remain empty.

There is a part of me that thinks I should keep all of this stuff, because someday I will have a proper craft room where I can organize it better.  Someday I will have the time to make pretty dresses out of the beautiful silk, someday I will get the hang of scrapbooking, someday I will finish all of my knitted UFOs.  Someday.

Then there is the part of me that thinks when the time comes that I have a proper craft room, I can buy another bag of stuffing.  I can find another pretty silk, and there will be patterns I like just as much as the ones in the jam-packed filing box.  This radical part of me is suggesting that I might be happier in a house with less Stuff.  That, if I get rid of the craft stuff I am hauling around with me now, I can more easily justify the fun of picking out new patterns and fabric when I want to do a new project.  This part of me thinks that a clean slate would make it easier to focus on new projects, and that in the long run I would finish more of them if there were fewer of them to focus on.

My husband just read part of this post over my shoulder and IM’d me with the following*:

BWB:   I haven’t read your post, but it seems to be (at least in part) about the loss of crafting storage space. Well, it occurs to me that you will have your old craft storage space in the china cabinet. We will have two closets in our room, and three dressers.  You don’t like putting clothes in dressers anyways…

Me:  Yes, but the question is, do I need to keep all that stuff.

BWB:Oh…
Well, no.

Well, no, indeed.

When I think about how it would feel to get rid of those things, I have to admit that I get a little anxious.  My inner pack-rat is screeching, “BUT I COULD USE THOSE THINGS!  THEY ARE PRETTY!  WASTE OF MONEY!”  And yet, when I think about how it would feel to not have the clutter anymore, I imagine that would feel pretty good.

Maybe it’s time to get a little radical on the craft closet.

Maybe.

* Yes, we are sitting next to each other and IM’ing rather than speaking aloud.  We’re in a coffee shop, but we do it at home so that’s not really an excuse.  What, doesn’t everybody do this?

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