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An Unexpected Adventure, Later In Life

(Erol Ahmed/Unsplash)
(Erol Ahmed/Unsplash)

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“What do you want to do with these?” my friend Kate asks as she holds up shot glasses my husband and I have never used. One says “Playboy”; another, “Eastern Airlines."

“Yard sale,” I say, confidently. “I won’t be doing shots while I’m getting ready to move.”

Or maybe I should, I think later.

While she wraps vases, I carry my wedding china from the dining room to a cabinet I've emptied in my office. Moving out of the house where I’ve lived for 27 years, raised two kids, had four dogs and shared with my husband of 30 years is even harder than I thought it would be — and, trust me, I thought it would be agonizing.

My husband got a new job, later in life, and we are off for an adventure, leaving our Cambridge roots for island living in Hawaii.

We are renting our house furnished, rather than selling it, so we can come back at some point to the place we call home. But first, we need to make the house livable for other families. They don’t want to live among my enormous elephant collection or our family photos on tables, walls and window ledges.

(Sarandy Westfall/Unsplash)
(Sarandy Westfall/Unsplash)

I was comfortable with being comfortable, knowing what was around the corner. I didn’t think I could stomach such a dramatic change -- a 5,000-mile move from the house that held our family and the friends that watched our girls grow up — at this point in my life.

But I didn’t know change could be exciting. Now when I seal up another box with packing tape, I think of my new home, where the sunlight comes filtering in through the windows year-round.

Some of the work is physical labor: pulling a 27-year-old crib from the crawl space behind our king-size bed and carrying it down three flights to the garbage, piece by piece over two weekends.

Some of it is sad: watching my younger daughter Ellie, without flinching, toss a ceramic bowl, circa first grade, into the trash before I can take a photo of it. There is a lot of child art showcased in this house — and admittedly I don’t know what some of it is supposed to be, but do I keep it? Photograph it? Give it to my daughters? My mom tossed mine without asking.

Some of the work is about choice. Do I keep the clothes I never wear and certainly won't need in warmer weather? Do I save my mother’s clothes that I inherited 14 years ago when she died? She’d be 83 now, and would have gladly tossed these items long ago. So, with Ellie encouraging me, I put them in my donation pile.

I have other piles for old bedding, eyeglasses, books and dead cellphones.

Packing up their childhood is forcing me to move forward.

My older daughter, Maggie, is due here from California for a weekend of sorting through her clothes, books and posters. In the meantime, the doors to my daughters’ rooms are closed. Partly to keep the dogs from going in and taking stuffed animals as their own, and partly because when I look into those rooms, I see the little girls that were once there and I miss them. Packing up their childhood is forcing me to move forward.

In Hawaii, when we unpacked the few things we brought over the summer, I wouldn’t let my husband put up any photos of the girls when they were little. The past is past. Time for the present. I only wanted to see current pictures of our family. He turned his photos facedown. But now that I have left him there to work while I teach and pack here, I know those photos have been turned face up. He is even more sentimental than I am.

Working on my house is easier and more fun when I have someone to help me — a friend, cousin, daughter, husband, sister. We talk and laugh. Doing it alone with my dogs is lonely, but can be gratifying when I finish emptying a walk-in closet for the tenants’ coats and boots.

An emptier, neater house sits ready for a new family to fall in love with it, like we did, but for now, I will close the front door and turn toward the future.

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Morgan Baker Cognoscenti contributor
Morgan Baker is a writer and mother. She teaches at Emerson College. She lives in Cambridge with her husband.

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