Sunday, August 12, 2012

Moving Right Along?

Sheila Curran waves stick defiantly at the whole IDEA of transition!

The topic for this blogging cycle is transition. This is a subject better left to those of stouter hearts and braver minds. I hate change. I hate moving. If, as the saying goes, you’re supposed to “be the change you want to see,” I’d most certainly be Lot’s wife, frozen in time, looking back nostalgically at my burning home.

Tomorrow I fly to New Hampshire to dismantle my parents’ household. My mom is still alive and well, but wise enough to realize that she “can’t go home again.” She moved to Atlanta shortly after Daddy’s death and has never returned to the place they made their home.

My siblings and I are meeting to organize the diaspora of their belongings. As a family, we moved often (which may explain my reason for loathing transitions). Still, the surroundings were always familiar, always comforting. The couches, paintings, French cookware and Mom’s pitcher collection. Persian carpets and antique side tables and my great-grandfather’s handmade desk, my father’s hutch, my mom’s vanity, grandmother’s empire sofa.

Mother will take a few pieces for her small house, but she wants her kids to take the rest or give it away.
It’s distressing for me to think of the objects leaving their familiar counterparts. Like in Toy Story, will they miss each other? Or maybe the centripetal force of love that held the family together presided over the objects. Once they’re sent flying off in different directions, is there any guarantee that whatever made my home so comforting can remain?

I know the Pollyanna response. Yes! Of course! It’s just stuff. It’s the memories you’ll cherish. And so forth and so on, as we skip down Hallmark Lane.

Maybe so, but I fear the undoing of the house. The intractable child in me doesn’t want to admit that those days, the ones in which I could go home to Mom and Dad, are done.

At this point in my blog, I got out of my chair to hunt for photos of that gorgeous house, to demonstrate to you its particular beauty. What I found instead, were only people. Flocks of them. So many you couldn’t see the furnishings, couldn’t see anything but smiling faces and arms wrapped round one another to usher yet another person into the camera’s frame. (if you'd like to see the rest of the photos, you must click this link, because BLOGGER (google) and Microsoft (Live Writer) are having marital spats, the likes of which, I'm not putting another six hours into trying to get around!)   for photos: My other blog
mom, dad, the youngest fourThe  youngest four, in Athens, Ga, four moves after the first photo was taken.

I found something else too. Many of the best, happiest smiles were captured somewhere other than home. The beach, visits to cities, vacations, elsewhere.
beach photo mac, dad et al 001At Holden Beach,
our home away from home

Maybe, I thought, it’s not the furniture I’m really upset about after all.


I think Dylan Thomas said, “After the first death, there is no other.” When my brother Tommy died, I took this as gospel. What, I thought, would ever hurt this badly again? I felt immunized now. I felt I knew grief.

Knowing something in its ferocious depth however, doesn’t innure you from suffering the bends the next time you fall into the well. Knowing your father was 92 when he died, that you had won the Grand Slam Lotto of family life, it doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot.
You still miss the “old fart”, as my dad called himself. You still mourn the fact that he won’t be on the other end of the phone when you call with news, he won’t be there to open the front door, or close it when you leave.

That being said, I think the thing I feared, the centripetal force that held our home together, it’s already left the building. Which is why my mom can’t bear to see such a vacant house, chock full of belongings. They, like the rest of us, keen for the gruff voice and welcoming presence that had made the whole place feel so alive.

So. Back to transitions. I realize now, much as I’d like to avoid them, it’s not an option. I can opt for paralysis but the world around me isn’t stopping just because I’d like it to cease its infernal spinning.

So maybe, instead of stalling, I can try to take the higher road. One that better resembles my parents’ unflagging courage. Maybe I can regard this as a chance to honor my parents by loving my siblings and treating them as delicately as the Waterford crystal we’ll be wrapping. Maybe I can take this opportunity as the gift it really is, a chance to pay my respects to a lovely mysterious thing. I can brush my hand along the family couches and burnished tables and to know that in this place, we experienced the extraordinary pull of two people who loved each other in such a way that anyone nearby could not help but be drawn into their comforting nest.

Sheila Curran is the author of two novels, Diana Lively is Falling Down, and Everyone She Loved.


  1. Oh, Sheila, what a beautiful post. Change is so difficult. You've captured the essence of it.

  2. Love that pic, Sheila. Love this post!!

  3. Sheila, I empathize on the difficulties of dismantling the family home. My mother made an abrupt move to assisted living a few years back after living in the same house just shy of 50 years. We had to sell the house quickly and get everything out in what felt like five minutes. It's not fun, it's not easy, but it is life; and, as William Golding says, when you're a writer, it's all material.

  4. thanks so much girlfriends. It's funny. Until I wrote this down, I was soooooo upset but now I feel like I've figured something out. For me, I often can't sort out my emotions until the writer parts get moving. Thanks to the sweet coincidence of a topic that was sooo pertinent.