We're packing up. The contents of the kitchen is in boxes in the back of the minivan. The canoe's strapped on the roof. Tomorrow we carry the first load home to San Anselmo.
All the rites of the end of school are mixing with our goodbyes to this place. The end of the year picnic for Lana's Girl Scout troop. A glass (or two or three) of wine with some of the girlfriends I've made. Next week kindergarten wraps up with a little ceremony. Today we had a yard sale to dispose of the last items we don't want to move one more time. Tonight was a block party on the culdesac in our honor. And as, like everyone else, we've said goodbye for the summer and as, like no one else, we've said goodbye for good, as I've packed away china, pie pans, and canned soup, I've quietly ticked down the list of everything and everyone I'll miss. My increasingly easy friendships, the beauty and function of the Eichlers, the deep relationships my kids are forming with their peers.
Maybe it's the unseasonably rainy weather, maybe it's my allergy medication, maybe, perhaps, could it be, it's the change happening around me, but I've been feeling blue the last few weeks. Sleepy, uncharacteristically sluggish. Really I just want to crawl in bed with a book.
Tonight, after the block party, Sonja, my treasured next door neighbor, presented us with a photo album of our time here. There were our six kids in the culdesac with cupcakes for Mihiretu's birthday, then sitting deep in a pile of autumn leaves, playing Red Rover, Mae and Emily, Sonja's eldest daughter, swinging "spider-way" (Mae sitting on the swing in the regular way and Emily sitting backwards on her lap) and proudly displaying their hands bright blue from dyeing Easter eggs. She had even surreptitiously gathered critical neighbors for portraits.
As I was getting the kids ready for bed tonight, trying to sort through my feelings, unplug my numbness, a song ran through my head. And, okay, it was a Billy Joel song.
The song is called "And So It Goes". When I was in college, a very close friend, a male friend - and the biggest Billy Joel fan ever - proclaimed his love. He knew, I think, that I'd reject him. He was a lovely guy - thoughtful, funny, bright - but I needed years more maturity before I would have what it'd take to accept that kind of love. After I turned him down, he confided that every time he heard "And So It Goes" he thought of me. Ever since when I hear that song, I think of him.
Tonight, though, when that song played softly in the recesses of my brain, I thought of my people here. My San Jose people. It's a song about offering your love to someone even when you know it's probably fruitless. About allowing someone into that room in your heart, that sacred space, that envelope of vulnerability. And as I heard the song "So I will share this room with you and you can have this heart to break", I thought of those gorgeous open faces in the photo album. These people who stood and smiled as Sonja took their picture. Smiled at us, smiled for us, even though they knew that we'd be leaving. Who offered their love to us, themselves to us. And Sonja, behind the camera, giving more time, more heart as she created this memorial. Sonja, who will feel our absence the most, offering up one more gesture.
Goodbyes fucking suck. What can I say? This has been a very difficult year but these people, these people who didn't know us ten months ago, have loved us, have helped us, have risked themselves with us. And, damn it, I'll miss them. Maybe the numbness of these last weeks, this vague depression, has been my heart trying to close the door to that room so I won't feel the pain when I'm alone in it. And that, of course, as these beautiful folks have shown me, is no way to live.