It was finally here, the day when we would be leaving our home of almost forty years. As I swept off the basket-weave-patterned sidewalk one last time, I contemplated on my memories from those many years.
I may be older, I thought, but I am still that young mother who gently rocked her babies to sleep, cried when they boarded the school bus for the first time and felt both pride and anguish when they left for college. I am still that wife who not only fed a hungry hoard of men during Monday night football games but who also cooked thousands of other meals without ever once contaminating anyone with food poisoning. I might be leaving this house, I thought, but home will be coming along with me because I am still me.
This was not the original plan, of course, but who can really plan for what life throws at us? Health issues necessitated our leaving our beloved home and friends, our town and church, the treasured mountains beckoning in the distance, and the gentle whistles of trains that had occupied our subconscious minds without our even knowing. We were moving to a retirement community, some four hours away, because it was clearly best to move near our family.
Although I was not nearly as courageous as my ancestors who rode small ships across a big ocean, nor nearly as intrepid as my future descendants who will likely leave earth for a distant planet, I did what was necessary to make the move successful. I simplified. I discarded, unloaded, and donated. And while I was not like the wife on a wagon train who had to throw out her most treasured items to forge a raging river, I lightened my load enough to make our move achievable.
I didn’t discard my memories, however. In them, I am still the skinny kid who could shimmy up a tree and run like the wind with my braids in hot pursuit. I am still that young bride, smiling and proud in her sale-rack wedding gown. In those memories, I am still the wife, mother, teacher, church musician, and friend that I was so many years ago. I am even still the daughter who helped my aging, debilitated parents make a similar move years earlier.
Yes, I am still that same person, even though the freckles on my nose have been replaced by creases around my eyes. I am still that same person, even though my pace is slower and my vision has dimmed. The same person, but changed, too. For now, I am surrounded by others who also understand what those memories mean, and it is my new retirement community friends who have given me the freedom to still be me.