Because I am a tender-hearted literature person, I imagine the bittersweet endings of life events soaked in the promise of nostalgia, hazy with reflections of time gone by. But inevitably I find the last few moments of these events I've lived in to be quite the opposite. Less than an hour ago I crouched on our old patio, scooping handfuls of wet, moldy dirt into a garbage bag. I'd left some potting gear out to rot all winter long, the mess destined to be cleaned up in the final hours of April 30th, as our lease ran out.
I'd imagined a poetic scene on the patio, Chris with his arm around me as we took one last look at the view of Brooklyn, remembering the parties and the baby showers and the drunken fests that took place in our home. Instead I was scooping dirt and Chris was ferrying giant pots filled with soil down the hall to our new place at a frantic pace.
This isn't the first time an ending has gone awry. I left on a trip to Ireland the day after my college graduation, so I slept on an uncovered mattress in a sleeping bag, needing to get up for a 6am flight.
In 2007 I left Paris as one does, shoving the contents of my apartment in my suitcases until they threatened to break, then threw the rest of my acquired stuff out.
And even when I think ahead to a future date when we might leave Brooklyn, I know I'll be running some banal errand that last night, picking up packing tape at CVS or the like. Life is never the television show that it promises to be, the character who hovers an instant in the darkened doorway before pulling the door closed gently behind her, a soft, satisfying click closing a chapter. Instead we do one last run to make sure all the hardware is pulled off the walls and swing the door shut with our arms filled with trash.
Fair enough. The anticipated nostalgia is probably too false to enjoy either way.
This was one of the feelings I remember about my wedding day. Being so aware of the walk down the aisle, that it was a Big Hallmark Moment, made me feel a bit unsure about the genuineness behind my excitement. I'm uncomfortable with expected emotion; it makes me feel false to act as everyone assumes I will, as if the mere coincidence voids my authenticity.
Which is why it's important to find moments in the pre-endings. A few days before the wedding I stopped by the Church of Saint Luke's in the Fields on the way to pick up my dress at the tailor's. The doors to the chapel were open but no one was around, so I sat there for a few minutes reflecting on the day and my mood and my husband-to-be. It wasn't exactly at the same time as everyone else, but it allowed me to later feel genuine as my Dad walked me past friends and family snapping photos soon to be posted on Facebook. It allowed me to look Chris in the eyeballs when I arrived next to him and think "Yeah. I'm cool with this."
I had my pre-ending apartment moment last week before we boxed up a thing. It was brief because we were packing for a weekend in Charlottesville, but I moved between my closet and my dresser and the bathroom, grabbing what I needed effortlessly. How many times had I packed my bags in that apartment? A million. I knew where everything was and I knew how long it would take me and I had things down pat so that I could make oatmeal in the background and end up fed and packed with time to spare before work.
It occurs to me that this feels apt to life. I'd like to believe my death one day will be quiet, surrounded my everyone I love, a soft guitar in the background and stars twinkling above. Much more likely that it will be unexpected or that, at a minimum, I won't have a scene prepared. Instead I'll need to take stock all along the way, taking small moments to appreciate this life of mine and be grateful for the moments I've been allowed to live.
We're moved. Officially. Some of our stuff is still in boxes and lots of it is put away, but a long run of unplanned days and weekends unfurls ahead of us to sort it out. And as I write this, I stare out at our new view (Brooklyn towards the water and the Statue of Liberty's arm visible); Chris kisses me on the way to the shower and I am grateful for this first pre-ending of many.