Saturday, November 26, 2011

38 miles to bridge

That 38 miles across the lake sometimes breezes by, and often, especially lately, drags. This month that 38 miles seems like it takes hours and adds anxiety at every mile marker.
Maybe because this month also means taking all of my personal items to Mandabita, for a 4 month spell to get my family house up to date. it is taking me away from my MidCity life. It is separating me from friends that don't completely understand my choice. And from a life that was paper thin in parts, but was my own creation, under my own direction.
In a year of amazing transitions, this isn't even the biggest one. But it feels monumental in my 47 year personal scrapbook, because family has never figured very large in my day to day life. To be honest, I fear the nuclear family. Mine was anything but..
I have a classic blue collar family, with generational struggles that are kept private. Maybe a few stories told in response to direct questions, but blue collar people have little time to reflect, to gather and reminisce about successes or triumphs. Moving constantly means few family mementos are kept. I have lost just about everything I own 3 times in my life: once to parents divorce, once to a weak man, and once to the Corps of Engineers. So, my own history will be mostly vague to anyone looking for me in years ahead.
Add to that, my tiny family has lost 4 of its 9 members in the last 8 years. Bad health and bad luck are also often hallmarks of my class, of my time. Those four, incidentally, all members who lived here, in New Orleans. 6 of the 9 of those I call family lived here. That leaves 2 here.
So the loss of my small rented apartment in MidCity is not much on the scale. I don't even like the apartment that much, but love the street. My neighbors ( Robbie, Rosie and Daisy,Radell, Tim and Taryn, Mr. Henry, Jonas, Moe and Stephanie and family) are pretty damn great. And even Lou, pain in the ass Lou.)
But leave I must.
Because once again being a blue collar girl means taking it on yourself, helping those left.. We can't imagine asking for help; why would we? Who could help?
And if someone could, how could we get organized enough to have them help?
So, I go.
I take my leave of another apartment, with at least 30, probably well over 40 really in my life already of these apartment packings. I drive away, believing I'll be back, to resume something close to the same life I left. I believe that, but also believe as much that I can never return to the same life-well, more truly, I know that I have never returned to the same life, I don't know if I could have, I just never have.
And I like so much about this one, things I'm afraid I'll lose.
But leave I must.
And yes. There are some upsides to it. Peace among the pine trees. Room for Maddie the Cartoon Dog to run wildly, comically at me, zooming to the left or right at the very last moment while I laugh every time. The morning walk with coffee cup down the drive, looking at overnight markings and things I missed the day before. Making a meal in the kitchen that has every tool needed and a view of the woods over the sink. Finding my grandparents stash of letters from my dutiful mother, where she gamely put on her grown up face at age 25, 27, 29 while clearly overwhelmed at finding herself with 3 kids each a year apart over a thousand miles from home, with a strange husband who seems to either have the worst bad luck ever (even for a blue collar guy) or be a bullshit artist. (In the end, it turned out, it was both.)
Having calm, good conversations with my newly widowed, clearly sad mother through texts where she actually uses LOL.
That my mother trusts me to do this move to get the house in better order.
Asking friends to help me over there and some finding their way to do it.
Gaining some perspective on the last 2 generations. Seeing my own history among my grandparents papers; my report cards, my very precocious letters to them, remembering my brother and sister as children: Rick, so formal and yet silly, Angel, calm and courteous. Their letters and report cards reflect the 2 with whom I shared a great, great deal from birth to 13 or so. Then, the family broke in a million pieces (well 4) and we really went our separate ways, never to come back together as one, but knowing we always could count on each other as needed.
So, I piece some of it together there, in the house my grandfather built and my mother's husband rebuilt after Katrina. I accept the gift from the family and yet know that in taking it, I risk losing part of my identity, my created reality.
I just try to remember, it's only one winter and only 38 miles back.

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