Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In Memoriam

I'm moving this week, to be closer to the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Having spent so many years in different grad schools and programs over the past decade--Loyola Marymount, Purdue, Cornell--I've moved back and forth a lot. Moving my life from one community to another has become routine. But even though the movers will arrive tomorrow morning, I find myself just sitting in my place, looking around at all of my stuff, waiting for it to pack itself.

I think it's the fault of a friend who wrote to me yesterday. He said that, for him, the most difficult part of moving is realizing that, as one packs and sorts the material things, invariably there are memories that one begins to sort and unpack. Memories: their tentacles clinging to all sorts of unlikely objects.

A white embroidered tablecloth stuffed in the back of a cabinet, a small blood stain on the corner: reminds me of a dear friend who was dealing with an addiction. He stayed at my house one night many years ago, his nose bleeding right onto my tablecloth.

A framed poster advertising the inaugural North American Levinas Society conference: reminds me of the time and tears our little group put into something that would grow beyond our wildest dreams, taking on a life of its own.

A shrunken silk sweater: reminds me of the girlfriend who shrunk it because she didn't follow the washing instructions; reminds me how angry I was at her for ruining my favorite sweater; reminds me of how much I love and miss her.

But because I've moved so frequently, there aren't many things that remain to cause grief. I discard them with each move.

But, the books. I've been collecting them since before high school, and I would never let one go. I have boxes and boxes of books. I have enough to build a home. And every time I open one as I slip it into a cardboard box, I look for my notes and annotations. And I read the midrash in the margins. "*See Blanchot!" I kept seeing in the margins of one book in particular. It's amazing: I haven't yet found one marginal note that doesn't remind me of exactly who I was and where I was at the time I wrote it.

My entire life is contained in my books. I've written my entire story in the narratives and philosophical musings of others. It's all there, every last second. And only I can read it.

3 comments:

Ellen said...

Seems like when one opens a new door, or apartment, they can either live with excitement for what lies before them, or they can preoccupying themselves with what they are leaving. Does your moving have a look forward or looking back feeling attached with it, or is it simply and excuse to reminisce in your nostalgic paraphernalia?

Your books sound like a child's blanky, filled with comforts that only you would know about and could explain. Do you ever re-read your books I wonder?

I have a few books that I keep like a treasure, lame ones two, and many with information that I would most likely search online for the answers to should a question arise. My hording of academic books and text books makes the least sense.

Well good luck with your move, I hope it is trans formative for you. And if not, at least Canter's Deli might be a bit closer to you, not that it's that great but at least its open late which you may enjoy. Maybe you'll meet a Kohen.

Good luck.

D said...

So many feelings rushed to the surface when I read your blog. Moving has always been a bittersweet experience for me and I've done so, far too many times than I'd like to admit. The move to Colorado at seven, the day after high school graduation out of Colorado and several more thereafter. Until a few years ago, I let each become more mentally exhausting than the last.

Each move I find to be defining in its own right. I embrace moving now and feel they give such an opportunity for me to grow. To close the door on unforgiving, put right old wrongs, let go of belligerence that seems to cast cobwebs and shadows in my life. Like polishing an old silver photo frame, it just reminds me to start new in not just a new home, but in my life and in my heart as well. To be able to put that cliche up on the metaphorical wall and say that "the home is where the heart is".

It wasn't exactly an epiphany or a great revelation but I do find it to be comforting. The physical exhaustion of moving passes quickly, but hauntings are harder to quiet. Some feel natural to leave them behind. The familiar floorboards and the soft serenade of the ceiling fan needing minor repair gives way to a new road. However annoying it is to find a new favorite corner or get the furniture arranged just right, the accomplishment of having that new place to call yours, if only for a time, is so rewarding at the end of the day.

The only ghosts I can't seem to put to rest are the ones that aren't even really there. Their lives live on beyond this life, but the memories can't be sealed up in cardboard or locked up in storage. They are the photos, the childhood toys, the treasured wood box that keeps a new place seem normal when no one else is there.

I hope your move is seamless and a good adventure ~
:o) Deborah

Mxrk said...

Hey Mon, this ought to make you feel better.

Movin' is a damn thing.