Sunday, August 07, 2011
Everything Must Go
In 1997, I moved back to Brooklyn from Waterbury, CT, to take a job at a trade magazine in New York.
My plan was to stay at my parents’ house for a few months and then get an apartment, preferably in Manhattan.
Things didn’t work out that way. I could make all sorts of excuses as to why I didn't move—my career difficulties, my parents’ illnesses—but that’s just what they are—excuses. And I’ve had a bellyful of those.
Both of my parents are gone now, our two-family home is empty except for me, and I’m finally, finally, moving on.
It’s not Manhattan, L.A., the left bank of Paris, Park Slope or any of the other exotic places I’ve dreamed about. No, I’m still in Bay Ridge.
I’ve found a very nice apartment just a block away from Shore Road. It’s a longer walk to the subway, but it’ll be worth it for all the space I’m getting. The express bus stop is just around the corner if I feel like treating myself and with this bum leg of mine that’s not such a bad idea.
I was hoping to move a long way from New York to some place much warmer, instead of six blocks away from my parents’ house. But that’s not going to happen, at least not yet.
I know that I’m luckier than a lot of other people in that I have a roof over my head and a steady paycheck. In this nose-diving economy I consider myself pretty fortunate.
So I’ve got to clear out of here and make way for the new owner, which means everything of mine has to be packed up, given away or thrown out.
This is going to be tough because I’ve always used my parents’ house as a kind of a storeroom. I kept my foot on home plate, subconsciously believing I could always go back there. Reality has finally caught up with me and now everything must go—including me.
Moving is so stressful, weighing hard on the body and the mind. It can be painful looking around at all the boxes that make up your life and wondering, this is it?
I came home from work one night last week and my little buddy Ben, the four-year-old who lives next door to me, ran up the block towards me shouting “Robert, Robert!” He was so excited to see me.
Too bad you never had a family of your own, my dark self said, then you could have this kind of welcome every night.
But there’s no point in abusive thinking. I can only deal with what I have now.
The clean up of our house has turned up so many incredible finds. We’ve come across stacks of arts and crafts books, a reminder of my mother’s love for such projects, and one book is appropriately titled “Don’t Throw It Away!” Mom sure took that to heart.
I’m finding birthday and holiday cards from my parents and other family members that are years old. It’s fabulous watching how my nieces matured, with their awkward child’s scrawl slowly being replaced by fine adult penmanship.
Do I keep all these cards? It seems wrong to throw away messages from parents even if it’s just “Love, Mom and Dad.” But where do I put them?
And what about my high school yearbook? I hated high school, hated myself in high school and wouldn’t go back to that life for a stack of gold bullion the size of the Chrysler Building. But throwing it out…?
There’s one item I know I’ll be keeping. It’s a little envelope from the now-defunct Lincoln Savings Bank that my sister and I found in our parents’ closet.
“Roberta Curls?” my sister said, reading what I’m sure is my mother’s handwritten note. “Who’s Roberta Curls?”
But then we looked a little closer and saw the note actually said “Robert’s Curls” and was dated July 1, 1959, just two years after my birth.
We opened the envelope and out came locks of beautiful brown baby hair that once adorned my now hairless head. Where are you now that I need you?
I’ve said this before, but there are times when we feel like archeologists, only instead of searching ancient ruins, my sister and I are digging through our family’s past.
But I have to deal with the future. I vow that my new digs will be a real home, not the debris-laden bachelor hovels that my other apartments were. It’s going to be a refuge from the outside world, not a hellhole that recreates that dilapidated condition of my mind.
This apartment will be a proper place for me and Roberta Curls.