Uncle Lee’s face was painted with worry. He spent the day at our house, helping us get it ready to leave for the new owners. He even left halfway through to go to an appointment and came back to help some more.
“Remember, if you see anyone that looks shady, just leave. And don’t stop at any rest areas where you don’t feel comfortable. You may want to carry a gun of some sort, even a small one just in case. Don’t trust anyone and don’t be afraid to tell them you’re Gold Star.” He was sad to see us leave, and we were sad to leave him.
He swept the old house over and over, and I could hear the vacuum cleaner running upstairs as he sucked up the dirt in the closets and the trapped dog hair in the baseboard radiators. We didn’t have much time to get the house ready for the new owners. We were down to the last hours.
The Pods, one small, one a little bigger, didn’t fit everything so we had to give stuff away, sell it, or trash it. We had so many items from our past that we didn’t want to part with.
I remember when Roger walked up the driveway at Shamrock with a used, rusty chop saw. He leaned to his right to compensate for the weight of the tool he held in his left hand, his grin wide.
“I only paid 20 bucks for it!” He had been training with Half Moon Fire Department on a Saturday morning, and that day they were painting fire hydrants red like the lipstick Miss Monroe wore. In one of the neighborhoods they were servicing, someone was having a yard sale. He was tickled pink to find the saw, and it worked great!
I used that saw for years and years after he passed, and hated to part with the treasure, but seeing a stranger pick it up from the side of the road gifted me with that memory. I imagined him going home to his wife and telling her about his find. The power tool helped Roger create a picnic table, some shelves to hold my silk wedding bouquet of red roses, and a bookshelf which he stained dark green to hold Dr. Seuss and Disney children’s books.
“Green stain?” I asked using the most snotty tone.
“Trust me,” he said. He was right. It was gorgeous.
That bookshelf sat with the chop saw on the side of the road in our free pile. I don’t think anyone took it, though, because it was dusty and dirty from being in the barn. I should have kept it in the house. I quelled my emotions by remembering it was made of pine which Roger didn’t like much.
“It’s a soft wood that doesn’t last long.” It’s all we could afford.
Also on the side of the road were some mismatched drinking glasses, a few couches and chairs, a portable air pump, a rusted weight bench, and more items we simply could not take. I advertised free items on social media, but the pile maintained its rapid rate of growth.
“Do you mind if I organize this pile a bit?” Uncle Lee asked.
“If you want to,” I said.
Uncle Lee organized the large piles of trash and treasure, then we had to part ways with many tears. I’ll never forget watching him drive away in his red truck. I instantly felt the weight of our adventure on my shoulders.
We didn’t see an end in sight and still had to sleep enough to make the twelve hour drive the next day. We had to create safe places for our chickens to travel in, and we knew catching two roosters would not be easy. We also had to pack food bags, take showers, and try to sleep at least a little.
Our beds were blankets on the hard wood floors in the giant living room. With us were the three shepherds and two cats, and Ringo, the bearded dragon, was in a safe box. We didn’t talk about anything that mattered, and we surely didn’t allow our emotions to surface.
This was the living room we spent Christmas in for the past five years. We watched movies in there, studied together, and mourned our beloved dog, Zoeeee. In the winter the wood stove from the basement right below the living room warmed it, and in the summer, the open windows invited in the fresh breeze to dance in from the mountains.
We loved that house. It was the safest place we had in Massachusetts, and we are confident it loved us back. It was over 2300 square feet with no clean lines and no right angles. Paperwork in the town’s library stated it was built as early as the 1860’s and moved to its place on Wolcott Road in Southampton in 1873. There were four bedrooms, a bathroom, and a sitting room upstairs, and it had two separate staircases. There was also a linen closet that had wallpaper with pictures of Levi’s jeans pockets and old wooden plank flooring that was a foot wide. The nooks were sprinkled over the entire upstairs and the crannies were endless.
Downstairs was an enormous living room that was built for Christmas, a severely outdated kitchen, a dining room with a bow window welcomed in the winter sunlight, a bathroom, and a library where I would write and do laundry. The barn was large and even had an upstairs area and attic. It had four garage doors and writing on the walls from previous owners whom we heard were quite special people.
Our two acres of land was visited by so many bears we lost count, deer, bobcats, coyotes, turkeys who would eat out of your hand, a few harmless snakes, and too many mice and ticks, but we would sit in the orchard that butted up against the woods and wetlands and breathe the fresh mountain air. The mama weeping willow and her many delicate children helped soak up the extra water from the wetlands that would surely flood the orchard if she was not on guard.
We didn’t want to go, but we had to. We missed North Carolina, and Massachusetts didn’t fully welcome us. It was time.
We were finally ready to settle down for the night and pretend to sleep. The floor was hard, and the dogs were restless, and our minds would simply not quiet. None of us could really sleep, because we were just so excited to go back home to NC. We were also sick with nerves about the travel and debilitating sadness about leaving our home. It also didn’t help that for a few hours on that Wednesday, May 19th while we would be traveling, we would technically, legally, be homeless in between two closings so we prayed they would both go well.
Finally at around 1 am, while we were all pretending to sleep in the living room, I said aloud, “Want to just go?”
“Yes,” and with that, Sammy stood up and started getting ready. Nobody needed to be woken up and nobody cried. We were barren shells who knew we had no time to feel.