We’re pretty adept at leaving.
We’ve left a lot over the past ten years and each time that we attempted a continental switch it worked out ok. Boxes of our stuff left one day. We left another. All were reunited someplace fresh and new.
The bit that refuses to be orderly is never the suitcases or the silverware. It’s the intangibles.
How do we pack up the sight of our son sleeping all curled up and humid in the corner of his crib? The clicks of mah jhong with the clacks of conversation that snuck through our windows at night? The rabbits we ate in an Italian way after Shi-wen spent hours dancing with them in the kitchen? The new light that came through the windows after the trees were trimmed?
Where do we put all of that?
More troubling, I still haven’t found where I can keep my feelings about the woman who taught our infant son to be a toddler. I need to pack those memories somewhere or I’ll keep reliving how I’d come home from work and ask, in Chinese, how the day had gone. Listening to a day’s worth of details with hope and humor. Hearing about how our son was growing and learning and eating and sleeping. Hearing it from the person who was always at his side.
I want those moments close but not too close. The videos we have of her make me cry. In one she looks into the camera and talks to our son. Do you remember me, she says. Do you remember how we would play and read and dance? I wonder if you are more handsome? Are you taller now?
She trails off and the recording stops.
On our last day together she thanked us for the opportunity. We said we were the ones who were grateful. We may all have said thanks five times but then she said more. In a few gentle moments she told us more than we had ever known about who she was and what her life so far had been.
With those few sentences we understood why she was right for our tiny son. Why she’d insisted he drink every drop of milk. Napped in his room as he slept. Snuggled with him if he woke too soon.
It made me cry harder.
So where do the goodbyes go?