I often feel the positive power of social media. When I post an emotional moment or event on Facebook,
WhatsApp, or Vibr, I have so many wise friends and family members who help me
to see things in a different way. If I have
a negative perspective about something, or can’t see the up for the down, these
words of wisdom break open the clouds and shine light on a difficult situation.
This has never been more true than in the past couple of
First of all I am reminded that there are so many others around the world going through this – in fact, there have been trucks parked outside too many homes here in the past month. Families who have just left, and others getting ready to go through their own packing turmoil. I am not alone, and as more than one friend advised, we have to support each other and recognize that it is okay to mourn this transition. We have all earned the right to tears – it means that the place we are leaving has made an impact, has imprinted itself on our hearts enough for us to grieve its passing. The people we have met, the memories we have made, and the experiences we have had here will travel and stay with us always.
To be honest, it really was good to see the boxes loaded onto the truck. It means that we’ve made it this far, although there is still the scary thought that everything you have left might not fit into the suitcases. The house may ring empty, there may be bare nails on the walls, and the shelves may be thick with dust, but already I am beginning to imagine where everything will be placed again in our next home.
I know every single book, every photograph, and every piece of wall art. I know the origin of every glass, cup, plate, and every ornament from every shelf. They hold in them the years, months, weeks and days of every home in which we have lived, and people who have touched my life for even a brief time. Many of them carry my family history, my distant past. They all represent moments in time that are precious to me.
With the wise words of all my friends now uplifting me, walking
around the empty house yesterday felt less hollow and more resonating. In my mind’s eye I could see the dining room table
filled to bursting point when we insisted on a dinner for 16 and everyone had
to sit down at the same time because the chairs were so tight. Or the countless Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners
when our family of four or five became suddenly extended to whoever was
visiting and whoever needed a table to put their feet under.
Most memorable are the Thanksgiving dinners when the school was not on holiday and we invited working teachers who had no time to cook – the numbers necessitating a large buffet and people sitting around a roaring fire in the living room eating from plates balanced on their laps. Then there was the Christmas right after the downsizing when we invited families who were still living out of welcome kits because of visa delays, and welcomed everyone who had volunteered to give up their R&Rs home so that the Embassy could run on a skeleton staff while other families went home for the holidays. The dining room rang often with raucous toasts and the scraping of chairs, as turkeys were eaten to the bone and we regretted not making more roast potatoes.
The living room hosted craft nights and official receptions, intense meetings and relaxed coffees. It is where I first hosted the new Ambassador’s wife, and also where I met the wonderful Meryl Streep. On the mantle I could imagine Anthony’s bell and hear it ring while he called people to attention for a speech or a toast – telling the same joke about his wife being a teacher and hence the school bell… But I can also hear Christmas Carols and Irish music, soft jazz and loud opera. All controlled from Anthony’s phone and blasted through a system of Sonos speakers that grew exponentially throughout our time here.
In the family room – the center of the house – I see months of roaring fires and Sunday dinners. The recliner where I recovered from two hospital stays. Two cat trees with curled-up sleeping cats, Cosmo’s rolls of fat spilling over the side of his raised platform. I see rows of winter boots, a coat rack weighted down with a variety of outerwear, and feel the echo of blasting cold air as the door is opened. I recall a vivid memory in this room from the long, bitter night of the expulsions in April 2018. All of us sitting around the room, Anthony listing the friends and colleagues who had been given a week to leave by the Russian Government; Jamie broken-hearted at a text from his friend who would not now graduate from AAS. Peter’s red couch and Jamie’s homework corner.
The empty rooms are very easily filled with the people who occupied and visited them, and the feelings of loss are eased. A cousin commented that the best part of home is the people who move with you. Although this will be our first move without kids – our first as empty nesters – I hold this particular truth very close to my heart. Even though Eilis has not lived with us in any of our last 3 homes, and even though the boys will have new homes in their respective colleges, all of them still “come home” whenever they have or will visit. Because even 21 years after I left my home in Ireland, I still feel that “going home” is what I do because it is the people who are the true nature of home. The “things” we pack are only as important as the people and memories with whom they are associated.
Thanks to all my wise family and friends for your thoughts. My life is richer once again because of your
insights and perspective. I hope you all recognized your words when you saw