What made me think I could start clean-slated?
The hardest to learn was the least complicated. — Indigo Girls
I’m proud of the new room with its four little beds and its mural straight out of my imagination, a physical incarnation of the fairy stories I weave when we walk around the park finding knot-holes in trees to call windows and gnarled roots with high arches to call doors. Elise follows me up the stairs and I try not to bounce in giddy excitement.
“It’s so cute, but I’m struggling with what to do with all the babyish stuff I have for the walls. Their picture blankets and the art I bought for them. The simplicity of it right now … it’s fresh and pretty.
“Keep it simple,” she agrees. We nod solemnly, gazing at the room together. It would be too much. Time for a clean break. Time to break down the crib in the kids’ old room. Time to pack away the blankets and the fabric-covered letters of their names and the carefully framed baby pictures.
It’s time. But for the next four days, every time I walk into the room to finish my work some painful, rusty clasp catches in my soul and I wander out again.
Sitting tucked into a corner of a chair covered in industrial twill, the cardboard sleeve of a grande coffee cup slowly disintegrating in my nervous fingers, I talk to someone else about the Great Room Shift of 2012. (Because, as it turns out, there’s a lot of anger and grief involved in having your uterus ruined by a simple medical procedure and I have been unable to reconcile it fully on my own.) I try to explain the logic of it, the ridiculous frustration of my behavior. It’s just stuff. The room looks better without it. They are too big. It should be new and different. Why must I spoil it by hanging onto all the old baby things? But now I do nothing, caught in the whirlpool of my own emotions. The thought of packing it into boxes saps my inertia.
I need to do it. I need to move them. I need the guestroom for our summer visitors. I need the clutter gone. I promised Nate his big boy bed for his birthday. It’s so obvious and logical, why can’t my heart understand? Pick up a box, put stuff in the box, close the box, carry the box to the basement. Why does it feel like I am in the box, dusty and forgotten and suffocating?
“Why the pressure?” He asks me in his calm, infinitely reasonable voice. “Where does that come from?”
No where. From my head where I hold myself to imaginary and shifting standards, the sand always washing from beneath my thoughts, the lines always moving. I hang it all. The house echos with the sound of my hammer hitting nails. Plaster falls from our hundred-year-old walls and makes dusty patterns around the shape of my feet. I don’t stop until the walls are a riotous clutter of airplane footprints and brightly painted ceramic fish.
I can’t do it yet. It’s not so complicated. I’m not ready for boxes stored in the basement and never opened. I know the life cycle of boxes of memories. They become junk and then trash. They are doomed. In 2032, they’ll be shipped across the country when Matt and I move out of this house and into a condo outside of San Diego. I can hear our adult children groan as “all this baby crap” shows up on their porch.
At bedtime, Nate stares at his crib, stripped of its mattress, empty and skeletal in the bare guest room and then he takes the corner on two wheels to answer the excited calls of his sister and brothers in the other room. “Look Nate! Look at the tree! Look! Look! A big boy bed!! Look at your blanket! Look at your pillow!”
He actually walks on air, floats out the window and over the moon and back again to hug me tightly in his candy cane striped pajamas.
A beyond happy little boy in the twilight in his big boy bed with a lot of baby memories hanging above his head. It’s that simple.