After 7 months of waiting, I have finally moved into my first home alone. While the landlord finished the renovations, I was 2 months in one temporary place, 5 months in another temporary space. Throughout that time all my worldly possessions were in storage. Now I’ve reclaimed them – what’s left of my past life, of the houses I owned with my husband.
It’s been a strange melange of emotions. I’m excited to have access to my stuff – my art supplies, my books, my clothes. I’m happy to have familiar things around me. But unpacking has brought back a lot of memories of an old life that is no more.
I unpack the big food processor I bought my husband because he loved to cook but no longer had the knife skills for all the chopping. It’s heavy and too big for this little place, and for the size of entertaining I might someday do here. I unwrap the turkey pan that prepared many many holiday family dinners. Will I ever use it again? Somehow, in the old house, they didn’t seem out of place in my life so I packed them up for the move. But do they belong here??? That was the life of wife, the active mother. Now I’m the widow. The grandmother.
This is the first home I’ve ever created entirely on my own. College, grad school etc, I had roommates. Then I got married. Kids, divorce, another marriage. All homes with others. Never alone. Yes,I lived alone for 2 years after my husband died in our big house, but we had moved into it together. Decorated it together. For a life together.
I suppose there’s the freedom to put things where I want them, choose things I want. But there are also big identity questions. Who am I now? What is this new life I’m leading going to look like? And for how long? Mortality creeps in.
I got my new CA drivers license and registered my car. I wanted to cry. Why? I had no great love of Florida, only there 5 years, 5 of the toughest years of my life. Why did I care? I guess it’s because it made this move feel so permanent. That life is GONE.
Then there’s the whole holiday thing. Last year I was entirely alone, celebrating Christmas dinner on Zoom. This year I’ll be with family. Better. Much better. I brought the old Christmas decorations for my kids to choose from. I love having my grandson run in to open the wooden doors of the Advent calendar my kids used to open.
There are many tree ornaments, though, that no one will want. Ornaments Larry and I bought on our many travels. We’d always have two trees – one for the family ornaments and one for our travel ornaments. As we unwrapped them together, we’d have fun remembering each trip as we sipped eggnog.
I don’t want to take them out alone. And the kids weren’t there. They don’t have those memories. Should I even bother to keep them? That’s one of the many things I miss. Shared history. Shared memories.
Am I hanging on to the past, keeping these elements of a past life? I put a picture of my husband on a shelf. It’s been a long time – 32 months since he died. Am I clinging to the past? Am I holding on to grief as a way to hold on to the love? Am I afraid to move on? Am I resisting building a life alone?