The Black Suitcase

Pretty much anyone who comes in contact with me finds out in short order that I’m in the middle of a move. Where are you moving? they politely ask, and then I stupefy them with the complicated logistics of our eventual migration to Tucson. I did not know this, but saying you are moving carries a lot of weight—it’s right up there with divorce, cancer and having a baby, in terms of sheer emotional intensity. People nod sagely and offer their sympathy and well wishes, and now that our exodus from our beautiful home of twenty years where we raised Thing 1 and Thing 2 is nearly complete, I understand why people are so simpatico. Moving is intense.

Brimming with energy and purpose we scampered around the property with a scrub-scrub here and a scrub-scrub there to get the house on the market in April, only to see it sell in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. It is a seller’s market here, but who knew that easily selling your house could be so stressful? I know that not selling would be the stuff of nightmare, so I am not complaining about the fact that we  will soon be able to pay back the money we borrowed to buy the house in Tucson. My life is really good and I am the luckiest person I know.

I am very good at logistics and problem solving, but even I had trouble back in February envisioning how we were going to pull off a cross country move. When I tried to think about what we were planning to do—sell our home, rent our Tucson house, move to temporary quarters for 2 months and then move into a rental property we own in the east until the tenants in the west vacated—my mind’s eye would go all squiggly and I would have to stop thinking about it and trust that I would know what to do when the time came. Here we are in mid-July and we are very close to moving into the temporary place, which means that we have accomplished a lot since the day we attended the Women’s March in Tucson and embarked on this crazy adventure.

Since signing the first (there have been two) purchase and sales agreement back in April, we have been messing around with stuff. I had a good idea of what I owned when it came time to start deaccessioning, but I was taken aback by a black suit case that was lounging about in the deepest recesses of our attic.

When I examined the suitcase I discovered that it contained my dossier from when I was nine and ten years old. Reading the things I had written was a squirm-worthy experience, but I chose to extend the same compassion and understanding to myself that I would to any other child. I hung in there and read every one of my freakish screeds and took my time with each and every one of my disturbing drawings. What I learned was that I was a formidable speller who enjoyed playing with diphthongs and consonants, a mediocre artist, and a very pissed off kid. When I imagined one of my kids expressing the thoughts that I had unselfconsciously committed to paper, I felt sick.

I can’t ask my parents if they were freaked out about me in 1973, the year I captured, killed and dissected a toad with my pearl handled jack knife. Before she put it in the suitcase, did my mother read my confession, written in script that started out big and bold and got tinier and tinier and fainter and fainter as I described what I had done?

In a journal entry, written in one of those little blue books that early elementary aged children still write in, I described an encounter with the Easter bunny and my excitement over meeting him. I then went on to write about spending Easter Sunday listening to Jazz, playing cards and drinking booze with my family. Yes “booze” was the word that this  gal used. The only indication that any of these revelations struck a chord with an adult person was a faint oval drawn in pencil around the word “booze”, as though my third grade teacher was thinking to herself, “hmmm”.

My family has felt sad about leaving this beautiful place and each person has grieved in his own way. As for me, I have been efficiently dwelling in the details, contemplating fascinating things like homeowner’s insurance, utilities and storage so as to avoid the thought of what it will feel like when I drive away for the last time. Coincidentally, I have felt numb, humorless, lethargic, angry, and have suffered confounding migratory muscle and joint pain throughout my body. My back feels like re-bar, I can’t turn my head, my hips feel like I’m a Barbie doll who’s had her legs torn out sideways. I’ve had a galloping respiratory infection that required prednisone and antibiotics, and my lower lip has reached porn star proportions from the gigantic herpes sore that sprouted overnight.

The black suitcase has been a catalyst for some serious navel gazing. The short story is that the suitcase, a long overdue crisis within my birth family, and my imminent departure from this place where I grew up and where I have raised my children, opened my eyes and lead me to start attending Adult Children of People Who Partied Way Too Much meetings. These meetings, technically known as Adult Children of Alcoholics, are modeled on AA meetings and are very enlightening. I am so glad that the black suitcase came into my life and set me on this path toward the past, because I am the Queen of Repression and Denial which is why my body has launched this full on rebellion as if to say “whoa, not so fast”. Now that we are leaving the shadow of the Big House where I grew up, I can finally open my eyes and see what is as plain as the nose on my face.


When we hand the keys to this place we love to the buyer (who is someone I happen to know and like a lot), we will hitch up our Casita and head to Virginia, where we will party way too much at a five-day music festival. Throughout this house selling/moving experience, which began the moment we got back east in April, we lost track of our mission.  The reason we are putting ourselves through all this misery is so that we can downsize and travel more. We love to travel. We love meeting people, we love the adventure. We love the west. America is beautiful and we are never happier than when we are living with just the necessities and seeing new things every day. When we leave our house and head down to Virginia, we will be laughing again by the time we hit New Jersey.





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  1. Kathryn Speary-Donahue says:

    I love your stories and can especially relate to this one, as we have just hit our one-year anniversary at our “new” (old) house…the FINAL house. I’m so glad to have met you and look forward to reading about future adventures. The best of luck to you, enjoy the journey! ~Kat.

    1. admin says:

      Thanks so much Kat! I have been mostly off FB (especially last summer) and probably missed that your moving moment. I’ll be around like a bad penny for quite awhile

  2. Jill says:

    Thanks for this!!!! I imagine a move like this to be like shedding skin….makes you itchy while it happens, but you come out of it bigger, stronger and with a glowing new complexion. We are so happy for you and will miss you dearly.

    1. admin says:

      Thanks so much for reading! We will be here, just not right here, so you an eye can still continue our tradition of high level meetings at the Mist!

  3. Al Fermeglia says:

    Enjoy the trip. Thanks for sharing, as always…

    1. admin says:

      Thank you! Every writer needs a reader!

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