I have a distinct memory of the day my family moved from Brooklyn to the Long Island suburbs. I was only 3. If anything can burn into one’s hard drive, it’s relocating, even at such a tender age.
I don’t recall the whole day — I was barely out of toddlerhood — but I imagine my parents were caught in a mad scramble, hoisting last-minute things into the car. I do remember wanting to help. Somehow, maybe sneakily, I got my hands on a fancy glass dessert bowl which I promptly dropped on the sidewalk with a loud crash. I remember bursting into tears.
The pretty, familiar household item was gone. In a blink it changed from a possession that held fruit and ice cream to cruel shards on the city sidewalk. My mother calmed me down with the right words and her warm embrace.
I think it was the first time I realized that when normalcy shatters, one can still carry on and people will still love you.
I also remember calming down and hopping into the car. Among other flotsam, there was a clothes drying rack leaning against the front bench seat, and a lot of grapes on the rear window ledge. A snack for the long drive.
Concrete. Broken glass. Tears. Mommy. Laundry rack. Grapes. Flashes of memory I liken to a Brooklyn version of a Steinbeck novel.
More than a half century later, just weeks ago, my brothers and I helped my parents relocate from their Long Island house to a sweet place a little farther east and a lot more suitable for their lifestyle. During the process, I often thought about the day we left Brooklyn.
For the recent move we had been sorting/purging/packing for a few months. And by “we” I mean mostly my heroic, superhuman brothers. Despite it all, the actual moving day sneaked up on us way too fast. No room here to describe the chaos, but let’s just say the speed with which everything played out deserved the background theme song of Yakety Sax played in a million loops. (Here’s a snippet, though: One morning in full bed head, pajamas and flip flops, I chased a garbage truck down the street to give the guys a tip for picking up too many extra bags.)
On the final day of mayhem, something mind-blowing/mysterious happened. The very last time my parents went back to the house to pick up scattered things, I was alone with them. In the middle of loading up the car, my mom came across a pretty floral box.
“Oh, this is something I ordered and meant to give you for your birthday but it didn’t arrive in one piece.”
It was some kind of pretty tea cup with maybe a clear glass steeping contraption. I couldn’t figure out the function because the glass part was, well, shattered. As I gingerly picked out the clear shards to rescue the delicate cup, I realized there we were again, so many decades later, trying to help each other cope with broken glass amid a crazy backdrop.
I suppose I can come up with a million metaphors for these parallel situations so many years apart, but I like to think all of it was a case of paying attention. No matter the stage of your life, moving is exhausting, chaotic, unsettling and all that. It’s a situation one must power through. You can plan and plan and plan, yet there will be breakage and loss and a prism of emotions.
But also a sense of renewal. That’s why one must pay attention. I am happy to report just outside my parents’ new kitchen window, there’s a large bush with an active, eye-level bird’s nest. How I love that bird for choosing that spot. Now, my parents can stand at the sink and watch the momma flitting about or roosting there so peacefully, gearing up for the future.
If that ain’t a metaphor.
Reach Denise Snodell at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DeniseSnodell