I stood on my porch last evening gazing at the waxing crescent of the autumn moon. Earlier in the day I had chanced to talk with a friend about a mutual acquaintance’s impending move. My friend said the moving person would be happy in the new neighborhood. Available shopping in high-end stores; the hustle and bustle of a city; all the modern conveniences and amenities would be available. I nodded and smiled. Later, with my face pointed skyward as the dusk settled around me, I contemplated finding happiness in the aisles of a department store.
I turned and looked into my tiny house. In front of the wicker cabinet sits a 16 x 16 x 16 box which came via UPS on Friday. My sister Joyce shipped it for me. It contains the remnants of my Kansas City storage unit, not counting several boxes of things-from-home and three trunks (cedar chest, Boy Scout, Cub Scout) taken by my son in this final purge. My sister and I packed the box while standing in the parking garage of our old doctor’s office in Clayton, next door to the Office Depot at which I purchased the box. My empty suitcase stands beside the unopened collection of pictures and mementos.
I don’t know what I’ll do with these last items. Having them will not increase my happiness, but as I sorted through a rental car filled with the detritus of my midwestern existence, I clung to this last boxful. In a while, I will slit the packing tape and begin to sort through the memories.
On the Sunday before Labor Day, my sister Joyce and I went to the cemetery where our parents and brother lie in eternal bodily repose. I suppose an atheist would scoff at this tender ritual. But making the visit suddenly seemed important to me. We stood in front of the headstones. Joyce leaned down to pull at the overgrown weeds. I took a few snapshots and then, typically, tripped and fell on the cemetery ground. As I hoisted myself on a neighboring tombstone, Joyce loudly castigated our father for reaching out to topple me.
“Oh no,” I assured her. “I think it was Steve, just letting me know he saw me here.” We laughed and made our way back to the car.
From there we drove to our old house. Empty. boarded, and unkempt, it stands forlorn on a street that seems decidedly worse for wear. We hovered in front of it, Joyce leaning back while I took a picture through the window. I could not stand the sight of the unmown backyard and sagging roof. I started the car and accelerated away from the sorrowful scene. We wandered the neighborhood for a pleasant hour, stopping the car in front of house after house to talk about the people whom we knew in childhood.
After I came inside last night, I uploaded and studied the picture of my childhood home. It reminds me of the house where I raised my child. I sold that house in December of 2017 and have not seen it since I turned the keys over to the buyer. I can picture it, though; after all, I lived there for 25 years. As the moon rose over the park in which I live, and darkness gathered around me, I assessed whether living in either of those houses made me happy. I don’t think so. I carried a certain deep malaise from home to home for many years. The ready availability of shopping centers could never remedy the paucity of inner peace.
The moon posed for a pretty picture last night. Its craters and the shadowy contours suggest the kindly Man in the Moon of a favorite childhood book. I read the book to my son in his babyhood, a tattered copy that came from home with me when I moved away during college. The Man in the Moon reads bedtime stories to the restless, wakeful Star Babies. The stories teach lessons based upon the reported antics of the little stars in the nighttime sky. I studied my photo, looking for his kindly gaze. I fancied he winked at me. I took the pleasant thought to bed and fell asleep with a smile on my own weary face.
It’s the twelfth day of the ninety-third month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
Hover over each photo to see my captions. If the slide-show stops, click on a picture to jump-start the action. Please enjoy.