Change is in the air. I had a fun and busy day of apartment hunting. I set out with a handwritten list of four apartments, complete with open house hours, listing prices, addresses, and travel directions. I walked so much that my thighs still hurt. One agent stood me up, another agent who wasn’t even on my list showed me my favorite apartment of the day, and a third agent sat on the couch and looked at his IPad while I perused the apartment. And then I walked around the neighborhood, had lunch at a local restaurant, and envisioned a new life for myself. After much going back and forth, I have decided to move. To leave the home that I have lived in my entire life. The home my grandmother brought me to when I was 31 days old. But, my home is more than just a home. It is part of my identity. Precious memories are etched in every sheet of plastic my grandmother hung, every strip of tape she laid down, and every piece of furniture. In the nook beneath the stairs lies a pair of white shoes I wore as an infant. A suitcase in the closet holds my awards, report cards, trophies, diplomas, and school pictures. My college graduation picture is still taped to my grandmother’s bedroom wall. In a dusty drawer, there is a letter my grandmother wrote thirty years ago to the mother of one of her foster children. She recounted the child’s favorite foods, and urged the mother to be patient when her daughter cried at night. The drawer also contains personal information about the many foster children granny cared for – their clinic cards, dates of birth, and dates of stay in our home. In a closet, there is a doll-sized pink dress that I wore as an infant. My grandmother’s report card and a childhood picture are also among the memories of our home. My spelling test from the first grade, my college anthropology notes, my very first bra. My home is more than just a home.
Moving will be a daunting task, because it involves sifting through memories. What goes and what stays. Moving will be a daunting task, because it involves change. The idea of moving is scary, exciting, sad, and overwhelming. It also brings guilt. At times, I feel guilty for leaving the home that granny worked hard to create for me. I often feel as if my departure means that I do not think my home is good enough.
One of my twenty tips for surviving grief is to think about what you would like for your life to look like, and then get busy trying to complete that picture. Since my grandmother’s death, I have had a lot of free time and a lot of time to think about what I want my life to look like. I have decided that I want the following things in a home: 1) safety; 2) a large bedroom; 3) a train nearby; 4) a place nearby where I can buy fresh flowers; 5) lots of sunshine; 6) a nearby coffee shop where I can go to write; and 7) enough space for all of my books. These are my seven must-haves for the woman I am today. Although I currently have a large bedroom, plenty of book space, and nearby trains, I desperately want the other things as well. I don’t have to live in the swankiest neighborhood, but shoot outs and security bars are not sexy. Darkness makes me depressed. Flowers make me smile and see beauty. And I am tired of having to take a train downtown just to find a coffee shop or buy flowers. And so I have begun the process of painting the picture I wish to see.
My grandmother did the best she could with what she had. She gave me a wonderful home of love, security, good food, and enough tape and plastic to survive any natural disaster. And I will honor that legacy, and do the very best I can with what she has given me. Living my life well will be my greatest tribute to the woman who gave me home grown love.