First Night

I lay on our bed in our new house.  The fatigue and days of sadness crept up on me in the quiet moment of solitude, the first in days, and the tears started to fall.

I’d spent several days with my sister and my two boys up in Michigan as R and Melinda watched the movers pack up our life. I was certain that Michael, who needed structure and routine, would do better with sleeping in a strange place than watching all of his things dismantled and packed away.  We slept together, him and I, curled up tightly on her basement hide-a-bed, a pause in the journey that would change everything for us.  Z relished the days my sister allowed her children to skip school to spend time with him.  Finally, we said our tearful goodbyes, and I drove my packed minivan west to spend one last night in the Midwest with R’s parents.  His father would be making the drive out East with me, so that I wouldn’t be driving all that way without another adult.

R’s father and I alternated driving; him driving too fast on the Ohio Turnpike, me driving more cautiously through the mountains in Pennsylvania.  As we drove, I could feel my former life falling away; the changing landscape indicative of the change this journey represented.  The heavy traffic, even on a Sunday night in November, as we drove through New Jersey and around New York City, braced me for the faster pace of our new home.

We met R and my daughter at an awful hotel one town away from our rural town (which did not have any hotels within it’s sleepy town borders), crammed into two tiny hotel rooms, and spent our first night in the Northeast munching on hotel snacks and takeout subs from the convenience store across the street.

And so on a cold Monday morning in late November, we pulled up to the strange feeling (but very expensive) gray colonial home on the busy street.  I was confused by the baseboards which made knocking noises as they struggled to warm up the square footage; we’d always had forced air heat in every other place we lived.  I scowled at the tall grass, which clearly hadn’t been mowed since the day R signed the offer contract weeks ago.   The movers slowly brought our life into these four walls, one piece of furniture and box at a time.   I watched Michael and Melinda in what would serve as their new playroom, keeping them out of the way, as I heard R make jokes with the guys and offer them pizza and beer for lunch.   They in turn set up the bed frames, put the mattresses on, and placed most of the furniture where it was supposed to live.

Finally, after I tucked Michael into his bed (making sure we had his special blanket that he couldn’t sleep without) available, and Melinda into hers (along with seven special stuffed animals), I walked into our new room.  It was half of the size of the one we’d occupied in Ohio; where our furniture had felt fine there, even on the small side, it dominated the room here.  Boxes lined the walls, along with R’s computer, since we had no space for a home office here.  I listened to R and his father talking softly downstairs while they connected all of the electronics to the television in the living room.  My mind wandered to my friends in Ohio, my students, the job I’d left behind, my family that would never be able to afford plane tickets or even the gas bill to drive such a distance, and I started to cry.  All of it, everything that was different, everything I’d just walked away from came bubbling up fast in my chest, and the tears flowed silently onto the pillow.  Before I could catch my breath, full blown sobs came, and I stuffed my face into my pillow so that Zachary wouldn’t be able to hear me.  If I was going to be selling the fact that this move was a good thing, I had better start learning how to believe it myself.

I resolved to let myself wallow in my grief tonight, and put it behind me tomorrow.

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