It’s impossible to pinpoint even the year at which my desire for more space morphed into a longing for less. For “simple.” Maybe it coincided with Zak’s or Hannah’s departures for college, or perhaps it was that expensive HVAC replacement a couple of years ago, but it definitely settled into my soul after we lost our dog Lily last spring. Our sweet, but ornery chocolate lab had permitted me to postpone the decision indefinitely. Smaller yard? We couldn’t do that to Lily. Her welfare was my padded excuse to enjoy the serenity of my backyard woods for another season or two. But after her passing last May and as Matt progressed through his senior year of high school, downsizing took on priority status.
In the beginning, I resisted with a little last minute nesting. “Wouldn’t this be great in your room?” Matt didn’t even need to respond. I knew. “Except you won’t be here that much, huh?”
“I’ll have laundry.”
Mental fist pump for my great wisdom in upgrading the washer and dryer. The Ohio State University won’t give you free detergent and fabric softener, btw…
“And I’ll always have food, you know.”
As my co-bachelor housemate for almost four years now, Matt knows the quality of my leftovers vary from night to night, but I give quiet thanks that he, alone, enjoys full access to my secret stash of dark chocolate. Unending supply of Ghirardelli Dark with Sea Salt and Almonds in the dorm lobby? I think not!
Debbie came over to help get me started in the vast basement space, affixing signs to walls: “Sell,” Donate,” “Dump.” And we began… Toys, books, clothing, photos… We spent a couple of hours digging through memories and putting them to rest, her presence compelling final choices. Downsizing is a different experience for the divorced or widowed. The little road trips of the mind follow a single mapped route with no side jaunts for savoring context. The emotional journey may be a solo trip, but it definitely helps to have a friend in the passenger seat.
Eventually I faced my first real dilemma and was glad for Debbie’s steadying presence as I held up a wedding photo of my ex-husband. “Should I give this to the kids?” My own bridal-veiled portrait had already landed in a garbage bag, but the divorced parent strives for fairness.
“Throw it. They don’t need it.” And she’s right. He has remarried; the man in the photo is long gone. Rest in peace.
More digging, more dumping. Treasures and trash. When the Volunteers of America showed up the following Thursday, they found quite the haul on my front porch. And the trash guys had some heavy lifting down at the driveway curb—balancing out a few of those many days that cans sat forgotten in my garage.
It’s an official beginning, I guess. Of an ending, I suppose. Or, more aptly, a “transition.” From the mom of three that I once was to the mother of adult children I will soon be. And I want to tell them, my kids, as I sift, sort, and remember—that these little smile lines on my face are such a small and inadequate measure of the joy I’ve known in watching them grow.
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