“I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.”
― Judith Minty
Our cat, Giese, lies curled amidst the chaos formally known as my desk. She is surrounded by boxes, tape, white papers, black markers and, inexplicably, a roll of eye-blinding, blaze orange, duct tape. In a way, if you squint, her calico fur sorta blends in like camouflage.
There are moments I wish I could hide too, and I poke her belly with loving jealousy. She stretches until her body shakes, and then immediately falls back asleep. Little does she know her world, like mine, is about to plunge into a vast pool of change.
Early last winter my husband gave my hand a squeeze and nonchalantly said, “I have a wild idea. Let’s move to Northfield to be closer to your daughter and son-in-law.”
I squeezed his hand back. I chuckled. I checked to see how much bourbon he’d downed during cocktail-thirty. In other words, I thought he was kidding.
The next day, while walking our dog, he once again broached the subject.
“Soooooo,” he said, “Any thoughts on moving to Northfield? I know it would be a huge change for you.”
Wow, oh wow. He was freak’n serious.
My first thought was, I can’t do that! I’ve lived in North Branch for 38 years. My everything is here. And by “everything” I meant predictable comfort. Like the television show, Cheers, everybody knows my name when I’m out and about. The postal people tease me, the bank tellers give our dog biscuits when we use the drive through, and waitresses stop to chat. Even the sanitation drivers smile and wave. 38 years! I’ve been blessed with rarely challenged, beige on beige, living at it’s finest.
My second thought was, Wait a minute. What is tethering me, really? My friends will still be my friends if they choose to be. My family will visit no matter where I live, and most importantly of all, home is wherever my husband is. Am I too comfortable? Is it time plunge into a new community pool and see what ripples follow?
And so it began.
We started taking stock of what we wanted, and what we needed. Two very different things. My husband wanted to downsize. Less to take care of, less to deal with as we age.
I still have goals and longings. Downsize? How much? Let’s talk.
Then there are the realities of putting a move into action. Finding the right real estate agents—one up here, one down there. How do we put a market price on a home we love? Which one of us is going to brave the crawlspace and purge it of its treasures?* What do we do with family heirlooms that will not fit into our new home? What is our time line? How do we negotiate the inevitable disagreements along the way? Where do we go if our house sells before we find another house? Lots and lots of questions, lots and lots of faith that it would all work out.
And so, here we are. Next week, after months of living with uncertainty, we will leave this home forever. We compromised on the downsizing–less house/land than I wanted, more of each than he wanted–and look forward to making this next house a home.
Through all the ups and downs and “what-if’s,” we’ve clung to our goals and to each other. We’ve laughed, and sighed, and admitted how deeply we will miss the familiarity of North Branch.
There will only be a few more walks up the road with our dog, knowing Bob, the neighbor’s chocolate retriever, will come roaring out at us with full-on bluster and angst. A few more nights to see the moon and stars over Rice Lake. A few more moments to touch the (now winter barren) flowering shrub my father gave me before he died. A few more instants to remember how we moved into this home as newlyweds full of dreams and possibilities, and will now leave 17 years later… still feeling like newlyweds.
Next week my husband and I will walk to the end of the diving board. Our toes will dangle over the edge as the weight of our decisions bend the board forward. It’s a little scary, and a whole lot exciting. Who knows what lies below, ahead, around? No matter.
I see us holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes, bouncing wildly, and stepping off into thin air with a loud, “CANNONBAAAAAALLLLLLLL.”
Hang on Northfield. The Gates’ are taking the plunge.
*A treasure is a vague term closely linked to junk, or junque, if you want to put a pretty spin on it. The fact that we pushed said treasures into the bowels of our house and let them remain in constipated suspension for 17 years says a lot.
And, just for the record, if you happen to chat with my husband, he volunteered to clean out the ugly, dusty, ewwww-did-I-just-see-something-move, crawlspace. Repeat after me…he volunteered…no matter what he says.
Wow Gail, This makes me happy and sad. I am happy that you are embarking on a new adventure. It is exciting isn’t it? Not unlike Linda’s and my adventure, pulling stakes and moving “up north” a few years ago. We have made many new friends here (you two are among them) but we have lost a bunch too. Although we say we will continue to get together, the frequency is decreasing. I am happy for the new friends and sad for the ones we seldom see anymore. It takes a real effort to stay in touch as our lives ebb and flow. It seems like just as I am getting to know you, you are leaving and I may never see you two again. North Branch’s loss is Northfield’s gain. As GK says, Be well, do good work, and please stay in touch.
I have the same stew of feelings, Mike. As an introvert I like solitude, but in recent years I’ve discovered a group of people I adore. Were they there all along? Was it simply time to make those connections? It is my resolve to keep up the friendships in some form. Maybe I need to put out a missive when we head this way to see who might join us for a drink at The Local or Northfolk? I have been asked to bring my art back to the winery next spring, and Old Hwy 61 wants me to continue being their photographer. You may come to wonder if we ever left? Hugs, Mike!
Good for you Gail. Northfield is a great town with lots of rich culture. My cousins live there. You have great attitude. It will be exciting to see how it shifts your art and sensibility.
I took the last 15 months to retreat into blessed solitude. Though it was internal, it was a radical shift for me. So much soul dust blew off and busy fell away and important came to greet me.
I wish you a great adventure and will remain one of your greatest fans. Blessings to you and Tad.
Thank you for your good wishes and for sharing your retreat story, Lauri. I particularly love your phrase, “…and important came to greet me.” Beautiful. Here’s to new beginnings for each of us, and may we learn to love it all.
Kathy Gallagher Burton says
Best wishes on your new venture. I will catch up to you sometime in Spring to purchase some scarves. I am after all always “on the road again”.
Northfield is a great town!
Gail Gates says
You ARE always on the road! How’s the healing going? While Tad and I continue to unbox our world, I feel Northfield will hold many possibilities! See you in the spring!