I have observed before how quickly I can go from zero to sniffly. To wit, this morning Spangles and I got coffee and a croissant and strolled down to Clark Park, which on Saturday mornings is a quintessential West Philly scene and one of the main reasons I'm planning to move there. Every Saturday there's a big farmer's market, people, children, picnic blankets, dogs, and when the sun is out and the people are spring feverish there's not a more festive place on the planet. Today there was a large choir of Mennonites in the square, singing some gorgeous hymns - practicing, perhaps, for Palm Sunday tomorrow.
I looked forward to the time when Spangles and I will live close by together, able to roll out of bed and ramble down there as frequently as we like. If we get the apartment we applied for, we will live but two blocks away.
As I chewed a big buttery mouthful of croissant, I was overwhelmed with one of those "isn't life grand" feelings, and looked up at Spangles, and up at the trees, goofy with pleasure.
Less than an hour later, as I headed back to my apartment while Spangles headed off on a bike ride with his dad, the morning's glow had evaporated. I felt kind of anxious and off, some rocks in the stomach, un-pin-point-able dread. Was it just self-flagellation about my messy, gloomy apartment and the plants I've been neglecting? Have I been spending so much time in the company of Spangles that, pathetically, I can no longer enjoy the company of just myself?
When I got in, I found that MamaBear had sent me an article she thought I would like. It's a woman describing her struggle with losing her job and deciding to move and trying to slow down to appreciate the little things - except much more eloquent. And as MamaBear rightly assumed, there's nothing I love more than a good story about a sleepless, heart-wrenched woman whose pain slowly gives way to hope and gratitude, and I read it greedily.
One part in particular struck a gong, as she was describing her decision to move, and I found that I had burst into tears. But at the same time, the clouds suddenly parted, and I had the realization "Oh, you're sad about moving away!"
Not sad about leaving the tiny galley kitchen or or the lady who yells her conversations in the laundromat below at 8am on Saturday mornings, or about the awkard backwards-hung front doors or the occasional rodent roommate or the dropped ceiling that collapsed on us last summer. And most definitely not sad about moving to an apartment (I hope I hope) with hardwood floors and a little grassy patch outside and an actual dishwasher that is an actual machine and not Spangles in rubber gloves.
But it will be the end of an era. This is and will be "my first apartment." This is where I grew from a bewildered, wide-eyed recent college graduate into a bewildered but increasingly cynical cosmopolitan city girl. This is where I had friends over, sometimes, where my sisters slept over on the couch, but more often where I was alone. This is where I first encountered that "real world" they so often talked about, with its electric bills and errands to run and groceries to buy.
This is where I learned all of my most painful lessons of adulthood - where I learned about loneliness, unemployment, increases in insurance premiums. This is where I first felt the strange floatiness when friends announced they were engaged and I realized that we were now at that age where we do that kind of thing. This is where I learned that people you know can die in tragic, unfair ways. This is where I learned that there can be times when bad news just keeps washing in from all sides and it feels like the only option is to crawl into a bomb shelter with some canned goods and wait for Armageddon. This is where I sat curled in pain before I knew the name for what I had. And this is where I cried about it, logging long hours of tears.
There were good times, too. Bottles of wine and rambling conversations, nights we climbed out the window on the the roof, hours I spent talking on the the phone with The Twin, gabbing and wandering in circles through the apartment. The time Steph and I melted a patch of carpet while conducting an ad-hoc ceremony to release negative vibes and boys who didn't love us. I remember painting the walls with T-bone when I first moved in, the care he took in teaching me how to do it right, like passing down a family tradition, the way he bought me all the paint but didn't say a word, even about the bright tangerine orange color. I remember the first time Spangles came over, for spaghetti, when we were both kinda realizing that we both kinda liked each other.
This is the apartment that got me where I am today. Who was it that said, praise the bridge that carried you over?
And even though I'm ready for greener pastures, preferably pastures to which I have exclusive access through a back door, I'm realizing that old truth about how beginnings and ends are hopelessly intertwined. I'm realizing that I do keep getting older, and even though I'm still young, I'm not that young, I'm not the child that I once was. I can rent a car without the extra fee, I can apply for an apartment without a co-signer, I can roast a chicken and serve it to guests. I'm remembering that this, right here, is my life, in which I'm in the process of writing the story of my twenties. The stories which, when my elders told me theirs, seemed so set in stone, so final, as if they had simply been the decree of the Fates from the very beginning, not an uncertain present with an uncertain outcome.
It's just the passage of time, the most dependable thing on the block, and yet it's always finding new ways to sneak up on you. Surprise!!! You are older. Surprise!!! You are moving in. Surprise!!! You are moving out.
What can you do but shake your head, after the shock wears off, and say "You again. You get me every time." And try to smile, and try to be grateful that you will be allowed to move again, move anywhere at all.
Here is my send-off, from Dominique Brown's article:
I settle into my new home; its healing balm has been there all along, nestled in a sofa that beckons me to pick up a book, hovering outside the window inviting me to take a walk. I find room in my life again for love of the world, let the quiet of solitary moments steal over me, give myself over to joy. What a surprise! That I can cook a meal for my children, or take a long walk on the beach, or watch an osprey wheel through the sky, or set down a page of thoughts — these are moments of grace. Old Testament loving-kindness, the stuff of everyday life.
One adventure is over; it is time for another. I have a different kind of work to do now.