“Hey,” Dave asked me on Thursday of last week, “I want to take the kids to the pumpkin patch on Sunday.” Our annual pilgrimage to the pumpkin patch was always something I’d looked forward to, but I’d assumed that he meant he wanted to take the kids with someone else. Fair play, I shrugged, and agreed. Can’t have it all ways, right?
When Saturday turned out to be a bust – the kids were happily ensconced on my couch playing with their new capes and jumping around like a couple of monkeys, Dave suggested Sunday as the day we’d go to the pumpkin patch. Still certain he didn’t mean, “how ’bout we BOTH take them to the pumpkin patch,” I agreed. The kids were going back to his house; what he chose to do with them and with whom wasn’t something I really had any say in – and frankly, it wasn’t exactly something I was upset about. Next year, I comforted myself, I’d be able to take them to the pumpkin patch.
“Well,” I said, “why don’t you come over and have breakfast with us before you go? The kids made cinnamon rolls and will be happy to see you.”
“Oh,” he said, confused. “I thought we were going to the pumpkin patch…”
“Wait,” I said. “You want ME to go, too? Okay!” I happily agreed. I love the pumpkin patch NEARLY as much as I love the color blue and finding eclectic artwork.
We decided, after noshing on cinnamon rolls, that we’d simply pick up some pumpkins at the store and go over to The House Formerly Known As Mine to decorate them. Thoughtfully, Dave asked if that was okay with me. Considering I’d had my garage door opener – my one way into the house to collect my things – taken away, I was thrilled to go over there, decorate pumpkins and collect the things that were mine. I hadn’t taken much of the stuff from the house when I moved – the plan had been to keep The House Formerly Known As Mine “Switzerland,” so I figured leaving some furniture behind was okay.
We pulled up to The House Formerly Known as Mine and I noted the peonies, which I’d carefully planted many years ago, were preparing for winter, shedding leaves and turning an unsightly shade of green. I blinked the tears from my eyes before anyone could notice, wondering if anyone would be taking care of them as I once had – with unabashed joy.
As the kids got settled inside with their pumpkins, I began the arduous process of dissecting the pile of things that had been left in the garage – presumably my own stuffs – and moving the items I needed into the back of the van so that I could transport them to my own home. It only took a few minutes, but I wasn’t quite ready to enter the home that had once been mine – my forever home. It’s been extraordinarily difficult to see the places I once haunted; to realize that it is, in fact, all over now.
Without making eye contact, I grabbed a cup of coffee and went back into the garage, only this time, it was to sit and let the tears flow without fear of repercussion. I sat myself on the cooler we’d once bought together for this or that and stared around the garage, the sun shining merrily, my neighbors all working in their yards or on their cars in the same way they’d always done. While I’m not narcissistic to assume that life will not go on without me, it did dawn on me that it had and that inexplicably hurt.
I looked around the garage, which seemed a glaring reminder of what had come before.
There’s that rake up there, the one that’s made to look like a bumblebee that we bought for the kids to “help” in the yard after the trees had dumped their leaves. It had to be five or six years old, but there it was – still intact and still working.
And over there, the matching pink and red Red Ryder Big Wheels I’d bought on two separate Black Friday’s off Amazon: one for Alex and one for Mimi. I smiled, recalling how happy I’d been to find such a good deal on them; how much I’d loved riding my own and how I just knew that someday, these would be treasured toys.
Right there, in front of me was the adorable Power Wheels I’d bought Alex that March, well before I knew that I’d soon be moving.
To my left were a couple of buckets leftover from Easter. I’d moved them outside so that the kids could “garden” (read: dig holes in the dirt) with me, a favorite activity for the four of us. I wondered briefly if we’d be able to do that again someday; how joyful it would make me if we could.
On that shelf, the one we’d bought when we first moved in, I saw all of the sprays I’d bought to save my roses from the dreaded black spot, carefully applying it every other week so that their blooms would smell of heaven and their leaves wouldn’t turn an unsightly shade of yellow. I remembered how many hours I’d spent in that rose garden, lovingly tending to the plants, releasing my stress and watching something beautiful come from a small, innocuous plant.
And there, hanging up, the Baby swing that had fit both Alex and Amelia at one time or another, allowing them to swing alongside their older siblings until they both grew out of it. I remember carefully choosing a playset for the kids so that they’d have a backyard playground, Dave and I in agreement that it made our house feel like a home.
Tears rolled down my cheek as I wondered how it had all come to this.
I couldn’t answer that, so I swiped at my eyes and took a deep breath.
It was time to watch my babies decorate their pumpkins before I returned to my empty apartment, armed with stuff I’d left behind, leaving those things that were never mine to take.