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.