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August 26, 2012

We have been saying a lot of goodbyes.

My dry cleaner hugged me after I told her we were leaving. “I so sad!” she said, looking at Andy, who was slumped in a chair waiting for me to finish. “I remember when he was little baby!”

I remember that too. We used to use the drive through window in those days. She would wave at him through the window to where he sat in his car seat. He’d wiggle his arms and legs and laugh. Today, though, we have walked over the hill an across the street and stopped for Slurpees before getting our clothes for the last time. “I so sad,” she says again. “Good luck in New York!”

The last time she told me that I was picking up my new interview suit, which she hemmed for me on very short notice. Luck was with me. I got the job. And now we are saying goodbye.

I said goodbye to my balcony this morning. The balcony was the reason we bought the house. It just out like the prow of a ship sailing in a leafy sea. From it, you can see the century-old barn and horse corrals, the stream and waterfall, my kitchen garden and the flowers along the stream. We gave away our chairs. We said goodbye to the basketball hoop, which we sold to a neighbor who brought his very excited little boy to pick it up. “Is this for you?” I asked the 6-year-old, who nodded. “Do you play basketball already or are you just learning?”
“I played at camp and I’m pretty good.”
“I’l bet you are.”

It’s easier, somehow, to give things away when you know where they are going. My friend Ken took the chaise and armchair off the porch. AJ’s first grade teacher is coming by tomorrow to pick up AJ’s old train set. I gave my friend L my music stand.

i took the stand to L this afternoon, at the party she threw for AJ’s band, which she’s been coaching all year, letting them practice in her basement. They rented a stage and set it up at one end of their garage. Outside, it was raining, but they’d put up a couple of tents. When we got there, three girls from AJ’s class were singing karaoke. I looked around. The place was full of boys and girls I’ve not, not since they were little babies, but pretty close to it. I almost started to cry. As crazy as this place sometimes makes me, I’m going to miss it. Every person there was nice, every one knew all the kids in the room.

AJ’s band got up to play and in my totally biased opinion, they kicked it. Their bass player gave a great running narration of the show. They did a full set:

Deep Purple: Smoke on the Water
AC/DC: Long Way to the Top
Queen: Another One Bites the Dust
Cream: Sunshine of Your Love
Green Day: Holiday
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts: I Love Rock and Roll

At the end, they made a little presentation to AJ, a picture they’d all signed and a card. “Friend me on Skype!” said the bassist. “See you on the Xbox!” said the other guitarist. “Join my fac,” siad the keyboard player. “That’s in Minecraft,” explained J. “Goodbye. Forever.” said the drummer. Then L announced that the band would be autographing photos for their fans in the kitchen. “You’re an awesome beast,” said the girl who sings “I Love Rock & Roll” with them. “AJ, A called you an awesome beast,” I said when I read it. “That’s because I am an awesome beast,” said AJ. We lingered for a while after the gig while the kids ran around and the adults drank beer. After a while AJ and his friend B, who is not in the band but who also plays a mean guitar, got up on the stage and just started jamming together.

And then it was time to go. L and I hugged an almost tearful goodbye. L, after years of being a stay-at-home mom, just found a job she’s really excited about. She’ll be giving up the afternoon band practices anyway.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

I spent much of the day in my basement office cleaning out the storage closet and my file cabinets. I unearthed a footlocker full of old letters and photos. I found papers I’d written in high school and poems I wrote in kindergarten. Dozens of letters from friends filled up my trunk. I read them all then threw them away. I found the letters my friend K and I wrote back and forth after I moved away from the town she lived in. I found letters I wrote to the first guy who broke my heart. I found letters from the first guy whose heart I broke. I found letters from a guy I never met, but with whom I carried on a ridiculous fictional flirtation by mail after I left messages in French on his message board when I was visiting a friend who went to college with him. I found letters from my grandmother to AJ and the letters my parents each wrote me on my first day of college on stationery from the inn where we stayed the night before orientation. I found a long letter from an aunt I haven’t spoken with in years, in which she responded to questions I had about jellyfish with detailed, well-researched explanations and beautiful pictures sketched in the margins. I saved some of these, but said goodbye to most. I’m not even nostalgic anymore. I remember what I need to remember. It’s time to let the rest of it go.Reading them, though, was a good thing. Looking back over the letters from friends, acquaintances, teachers, and guidance counselors, I get a picture of myself as a girl that I don’t think I could see then. I also see how much encouragement I got along the way, how many people cheered me on or gave me a hand. Maybe it wasn’t a whole neighborhood standing in a garage watching me play, but it was close.

I never thought of myself as a saver, but looking at the pile of trash, recycling and donations, I’m starting to wonder if I was a mere step away from an episode of Hoarders. Saying goodbye to all of these things is more liberating than sad. It leaves space for new things to happen.

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