That final tour, though, was about more than cobwebs in the corner of the front porch.
I was scavanging for just a few more memories.
Here the porch swing where I sat and read, often into the night. One more time in my children’s rooms, patches of adhesive marking where Star Wars or Tennessee football or ballet posters once were so carefully hung. The funny 1940’s red and white kitchen I’d decorated with vintage kitchen ware, the corner of the living room where our Christmas tree had stood, the wall of my bedroom against which I’d placed my computer, the spot where I’d sweated and prayed through countless articles and three books in the last two and a half years.
And as I drove away, the tears started to flow.
Why? I wondered, a bit startled at myself.
A little bit of the sadness was rooted in that very house, of course. It was the first house I’d ever owned myself, I put energy and work into it to make it mine, and then there were those memories.
But that was only part of it, and such nostalgia wasn’t enough, at that point, to bring on tears. It wasn’t regret or a reluctance to move forward, either. It wasn’t even about the few things I’d be missing about Florida, for what I was going to was superior in almost every respect, except, of course the winter weather. The new house was more spacious, the area provided more opportunities, we’d be closer to my parents and my oldest son, and of course, my husband was waiting there on the other end of the road.
Then, in a clear-eyed moment right past the mall, it came to me.
One more act finished.
I considered all the other previous acts now past, moments that had seemed so vivid in the midst of the living, so intense, so very now. Literally thousands of hours spent in front of students in classrooms, now merged into one hazy painting framed in good intentions and filled in with broad strokes of frustration and a few, select fine details of hope and illumination.
I could say the same about any other aspect of life: meals, bedtime stories, games and conversations, books read, moments of deep satisfaction and peace to which you want to cling, think perhaps you can, but in the end find you simply can’t, and you wonder how time passes so quickly and if even half of it really happened at all.
Time continually passes, but when you’re in the same geographical place for years at a stretch, driving your children to and from school on the same roads, greeting the same cashiers at the grocery store, you’re more easily fooled into thinking that it doesn’t.
Packing up and moving away doesn’t allow for such self-deception. This place that seemed to hold you in a secure hand is gone, everything you did there that seemed so important is gone and even the physical markers and landmarks that remind you of those moments are nowhere to be seen.
Curtain drawn, scenery struck, props stuck backstage somewhere, program pages fluttering on the ground like so many dead leaves.
What brought the tears that evening was, I suppose, a bit of existential fear and trembling.
I wasn’t saying good-bye to a house or a neighborhood or even a set of friends. I was saying good-bye to a part of my life, knowing full well how ephemeral most of it really is, knowing that in but another flash of this thing called time, I will be looking back, not on a single act, but on the whole play this time, God at my side, waiting for an accounting of the gift He gave me called my life.
And so within the mystery of time, it turned out, there was no time for tears. No time to do anything but say good-bye to what was fading fast in the rearview mirror, pray in gratitude, pray in contrition, set my eyes on the road ahead, and drive.