The Things That Come When We Go

As I dropped a big bag of Granny Smith apples into the refrigerator crisper, I thought to myself, I wonder if this is the last bag.  That is, the last bag of Granny Smiths I will buy before my kids move to Maine and I depart for Santa Fe.  I’ll probably send the bag with them in the car, I’m not a big apple-eater.  I keep doing this with my groceries now – the apples, the Cheerios, the protein bars – is this the last bag or box of these I’ll be buying for the kids while we live here? This thought, like many recently, was met with neither pangs of sorrow (“my kids won’t be living with me any more!”) nor joy (insert same quote lol.)

I pack, I fret, I toss things, I throw together a meal, I plan, I fret.  The boredom and fear of the pandemic has now been joined by the tediousness of packing up our lives and getting rid of things.  Does this item spark joy? If that’s the standard, I may as well hop in the car and go, I’m done.

I’m aware that on some level this must be my psyche protecting itself, so I can continue to function, even if it mostly feels like I’m an automaton.  This has been a tough year.

Some of the bigger, more important pieces that are falling into place aren’t giving me the thrill I’d expected.  I always felt – felt – like a person who felt too much, laughed too much, cried too much, took things to heart too deeply and too often and too embarrassingly.  I observe myself. Anhedonia, or malaise?

There is hope for me. Last summer in a fit of desperation for some kind of happiness, I gave my neighbor a beloved rose, a Zephirine Drouhin, both heavily scented and thornless.  I knew I’d be leaving it behind, and I knew she had the perfect spot for a climbing Bourbon outside her bedroom balcony.  A few days ago the doorbell rang, and she – unmasked, we’re both fully vaccinated now – proudly handed me the first bloom, deep pink and intensely fragrant.  I can smell it for about fifteen seconds before my nose stops working, and so every time I pass that cutting I give it another sniff, just to repeat the experience.  I felt that.  I felt the purest, sweetest joy for a moment, my eyes welling up at the beauty of the scent, and also the fact that I felt it.

Then later, in the basement, which has felt mostly like an unending chapter in the never-ending story of where did all this crap come from and how do I make it go away, I yanked open a stuck zipper on one of those cheap, rolling vinyl wardrobes, mostly because I was trying to figure out why it was so stupidly heavy – what other pile of unwanted crap lurked inside?  Old clothes, long forgotten and abandoned of course, faintly mildewed, probably belonging to one of the girls.

But on the lone, flimsy shelf, staring me in the face, were the velvet mules.  The velvet mules.  The ridiculous, beautiful, impractical shoes I bought in Paris on a whim, at the urging of a friend, on a wonderful trip that now feels like several lifetimes ago, where we did nothing but shop and eat and walk, giddy with laughter.  One of the best vacations of my life, honestly.

I picked up those mules, stroked them, stunned that I still had them, that they weren’t moth-eaten or moldering away, that they were … perfect.  I felt those memories, the unalloyed delight of that trip to Paris.  I’m taking those mules to Santa Fe, and I’m going to wear them, to look for that woman who bought them, laughing at the triumph of hope over reason, beauty over practicality, all those years ago. I have a feeling she’s still in here somewhere.




  • maggiecat says:

    We never really lose who we were – I’m betting you’ll discover velvet-mule-wearing woman in this next stage of your life (I officially retire tomorrow, so I’m also a bit at loose ends but looking forward to new experiences with all my former selves and the ones to come)

  • HeidiC says:

    Those shoes are EXQUISITE! I can’t wait for you to kick them up in Santa Fe.

  • Patty says:

    I love those shoes and all the represent for you. Climbing out of one life and into another is hard, and emotion sometimes needs to sit on the bank on each side until you are done. xox

  • HemlockSillage says:

    I aspire to be the woman to wear those shoes! Those are fantastic.

    I’m pretty far from her right now. I trudge on, getting most of the necessary things done, in sensible clothes and shoes…with hair in a bun, and little effort to be extraordinary. I forget to wear perfume, though I have a dresser full of lovelies.

    You encapsulated how I feel so clearly. I’m not sad. I have my shoulder to the plow, and I’m moving, but not feeling. I’m packing up my parents’ home as they move permanently in with me. I’m happy to have them, but so much stuff! Mine and theirs combined, it feels wasteful.

    Head west! I hope Santa Fe lights your senses, all your senses, with joy like that Bourbon rose. In sere beauty, may you find the succulent wild woman within you. Be well.

  • Portia says:

    I’m hugging you across oceans.
    THOSE MULES! OMG! So cool and glamorous.
    I miss Paris too.
    Portia xx

  • Dina C. says:

    Got a big lump in my throat when you could smell that gorgeous rose, when you found the mules. Wishing you more of those glorious, transcendent moments in the days ahead, March.

  • Musette says:

    That woman never left – but she has changed, grown up, lived in you/right alongside you. And this past year … well, I suspect most of us has experienced some form of anhedonia (mine scared the crap out of me before I realized what it was). My advice (which you did not ask for but here ’tis anyway) is to stop reaching for it and simply BE for right now. Just.. be. It’ll come back, of its own accord. Reaching for it (at least for me) only makes it shimmer, just that little bit more, out of your grasp.


  • Cinnamon says:

    bitter / sweet. It’s such a hard thing anyway to pack for moves — to have it coinciding with family changes even more stressful. But new things … Change can be good? Those shoes are awesome and the rose story is wonderful. Am glad you are able to smell the flower to some extent. I realised after reading this that I had stopped crying about five years ago, only starting again last summer. I think this (the lack of expression) had some hand in the health issues that have arisen over the past year (or with making them worse). As Madonna says (sort of) we need to express ourselves. We really do.

  • Queen-Cupcake says:

    Lovely, lovely post March! I know that some day I will be facing the same kind of “how did I accumulate so much stuff” moment. The feelings will be both bittersweet and liberating, I expect. What you did with your Bourbon rose was so kind. Best of luck and happy travels to you in your move to Santa Fe!

  • MizChris says:

    My favorite T.S. Eliot quote for big transitions in life…

    ‘We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.’

  • Kathleen says:

    You described the non-feelings and the feelings very well. I hope you get many more joyful and happy feelings after the stress of moving and this past year, disappears.

  • taxi says:

    Lovely story! So glad you found that woman who was hiding for a while.