There's a giant cardboard box in my study with my ex-husband's new wife's name on it. Her name is crossed out. My older daughter C's name is written underneath it. Soon I will cross out C's name and write, "linens and towels/my horse collection" on it. I can see that the box will be perfect--padded on the top and the bottom with sheets and towels, my vintage TV cowboys and their mounts nestled safely between. This move is a ripple from the giant stone hurled into the almost-five-years-ago waters when my husband told me our marriage was over.
First I moved my things out of our bedroom into our guest room where I had a lock installed on the door. Then I went traveling, visiting anyone who would have me. Four months later, I bought a townhouse ten miles away from my old house. I made temporary living room furniture from my moving boxes. A wall unit for my books and the stereo. Doubled-up cardboard boxes strong enough to hold lamps served as my end tables. In my old house, the new wife emptied her boxes and arranged her things in the furniture I'd left behind.
The old house where I'd raised my daughters was a sliced-open wound whenever I thought of it back then. It was good I wasn't there to see their things stuffed into boxes and hauled from their rooms to make way for new children. Last week those boxes journeyed down the freeway in C's car to my townhouse so we could sort through them in preparation for the move to my new place. The place we call "The Beach House!"--though it's on the marina, not on the sand. Yesterday C and I skyped with her sister M--I held up each shirt, each sports jersey, each bracelet, each pair of earrings, CDs, and photos and let her say "yes" or "no." Afterwards C and I filled my car with bag after bag (saving the boxes for my next move) and roared off to Goodwill.
In a few days C will load a couple of those salvaged boxes with her modest amount of worldly possessions, pile them into her car--or give them to me to save for her--and head to a new job on her next ship.
Meanwhile the leftover tower of empty boxes sits next to my desk, each marked with its own history, ready to be filled and marked again. New names. New places. The boxes tell the story.