Leaving the big house

It is still dark out, somewhere just after 6 AM. The boys are under the covers, snoring and my brain is already going at half speed. I have a Nespresso so I will get to full speed soon. We’ve been sleeping in Mom’s room the past couple of days because I left it set up for the house sitter and also because this is the bed that I spent so many nights next to Mom in when she was sick. I remember one morning I was getting her up and ready to go and she kept talking about how she needed to be ready to go to Rotterdam and we needed to be at the ship on time. At the time, I reminded her that an Atlantic Ocean crossing in winter was not the time to do it and we would take a better sailing during a calmer time of the year but that we would go and I would work on the details. And this made sense to her, my mother who had spent so much of her life on ships, steaming up the rivers in Borneo and going from Indonesia to the Netherlands and back. After all, she was a sea captain’s daughter and then married to a Navy man. And then she was calm.

In retrospect, I know two things. From the reading that I did after she was gone, journeys and talking about going places and travelling is very often an indication that someone is in the stages of leaving. And two, that all things going to the Netherlands via ship go via Rotterdam and so will all of our household goods. So, maybe even then I was right, I would work on making it happen.

I am a bit weepy this morning. That’s probably why I woke up with this need to write. The past couple of days have been full of last minute things. The chair is beautiful and I did cry both all over it and the upholsterer. Bill from White Center Glass will be my hero for quite some time. He’s 74 and creating his art. He showed me some things on the chair that he fixed and then he told how my mom did certain things which sounded so much like her and I could see her yanking on the fabric, trying to get it perfect. And when I really miss her, I have something to hug, this great big purple arm chair. It isn’t a subtle purple, it is a disco purple.

They also picked up the Vanagon to haul it to my brother in NC. That was really difficult to see it go. It reminds me so much of my mom. She loved that Vanagon. There were so many times I wanted to sell it and get her something new but she didn’t want to let go of it. And now, Cedric and his dog Charlie will be able to use that 90 HP/8 miles to the gallon engine to have gypsy adventures like Mom did.

Yesterday they came and picked up Astrid. She will be trucked to Baltimore and then loaded onto a ship to Rotterdam. Next summer, I am going to drive her to Trollhattan, Sweden and we will see the production line where she was “born”. I am reminded of what a joy it is drive a Saab (a pre-GM one). I drove her down to Olympia to get some last minute documents their necessary apostilles and I was reminded of all of the times that Mom and I were in the car together.

Before she bought her Saab (the SPG), Mom and I shared Astrid. I was working three jobs and so she would take me from job to job so she could use the car otherwise. In a year, we put 70K miles on Astrid. Mom used to hate the smell of my feet. It wasn’t just my feet. It turns out that stinky feet run on our paternal side – just ask my brother, Rupert previously known as “Swamp Foot”. When Rupert was in high school, he had to keep his shoes outside. And because I wouldn’t wear leather shoes, inevitably I was wearing some kind of plastic shoe to go with my uniform for my airline job. So, you can imagine the aroma. We would be driving late at night because my shift ended at 130 AM down the back way from the airport to Seattle. And I’d be mid conversation with Mom. At the top of the hill, I would take off my shoes without pausing a beat in the conversation and just wait. And by the time we were at the bottom of the hill and the First Ave S bridge, Mom would have caught the wave of stink. And she would frantically open all of the windows, regardless of the weather and yell at me to put my shoes back on. Which would send me into protestations of denial that it couldn’t be my feet, it must be coming from outside until I couldn’t stop laughing. She would tell me that I had burned her nose. I would tell her that she was lucky to have such a beautiful aroma.

I bought this house a year ago. At that time, it was perfect for what we needed and Mom loved it. I am really grateful that I was able to do it. It is a beautiful house. And it is a strong house, for despite the sadness that is here, it still remains a place of light. And I hope the next family that lives here can celebrate that. For me, it is time to find something smaller. Tomorrow I leave for Hawaii and when I come back on Friday, this house will be different again. In a way, I am glad that Mom lead such an unusual life, because I don’t feel that I am leaving her behind if I leave this house. Maybe it’s different if someone you loved spent 50 years in a house. Of course the person and the place would be interwoven. My mom lived so many places that I think more of her when I see a skirt that she wore during the years we lived in Florida or I find one of her pages of notes about what her perfect house looks like or when I sit at the dining room table that was in my grandparents house and I know my Mom ate there too. I guess what I am saying is my Mom is portable.

George is waking up so that means my day has begun.

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