I shuffled clothes through the narrow hallway. Brick wall on one side, eclectic paintings on the other, I didn’t have much room to maneuver. I’d spent the week sorting my stuff (this pile goes with us, this pile to the Salvation Army) and two suitcases had come with me to our small apartment in New Orleans, not a particularly good solution. Earlier, on my 59th birthday, I had decided to physically get up and move every day until I turned 60—my decade birthdays always generate a year-long preparation. This year, I vowed to be in motion every day in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise done—mostly walking really fast down the sidewalk. As I shoved a bag aside with my foot, it dawned on me that I had inadvertently landed on a theme for the year.
Y’all know I love my house. It’s situated on an island in the Mississippi River. The story is, the island is a sandbar that formed around a sunken barge. The sunken barge part isn’t true, but it could be. The mythical setting matches the beauty of the partly-urban/partly-natural neighborhood: look one way, you see the city’s iconic pyramid; the other reveals massive cottonwood trees that populated the forming sandbar. But the time has come for a change, and we are leaving.
I’ve known this truth intellectually for a while, and I’ve grieved it. We live in the house part-time. We need to let someone else love it full-time. But my trees!
Seeking a new place, we tromped around downtown Memphis, peering into other people’s closets, analyzing space as we navigated rabbit-warren hallways to get to the condos. It didn’t feel right, not the approach, not the creepy parking garages, none of it. Until we stepped onto the former loading dock of the train station. Nine units with drive-up parking. Steel beams and original sconce from the loading dock days. Exposed brick walls, and a big-ass double patio. We fell in love immediately.
We are not downsizing. Downsizing is picking up your life and continuing it in a different, slightly smaller setting. It’s sinking your money into a showcase condo with a breath-taking view of the Mississippi River. We are moving to the arts district of Memphis to live in an apartment under the train tracks that my husband affectionately calls “the Hobbit Hole.”
In the process, we are shedding what one isn’t supposed to shed. Family furniture. Sentimental pictures of the lives we’ve lived so far. Mementoes that remind us of who we have been. Heretical to throw away this stuff. Yet, it’s all being tossed so we can be free to do what we want to do. Mid-week, I watched pictures flutter into the trashcan and told Tom, “We’re becoming flexible heretics.”
I have an entire room of things going to the Salvation Army, which has already picked up furniture. We took two car-loads of stuff to a Really Really Free Market. One way or another, we will get to the point where we can fit into this new apartment. We will be leaner, more nimble. We will shake off the tyranny of things. To do so, I must march straight into the heart of darkness: moving and sorting. But I will emerge on the other side where we will button our coats and head out to the rock-a-billy festival or a latest restaurant. We will live in a 100-year old loading dock where the train glides into the city of Memphis, home of the blues and birthplace of rock-and-roll, cradle of creativity and repository of dreams.
That is the move I want to make.