Saying Goodbye in Layers

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Leaving Manassas after 33 years takes some excavation.

I closed my freelance business, resigned from the city’s elections office and handed the “wand of leadership” of Write by the Rails to interim president Stacia D. Kelly.

With my husband starting his job immediately in North Carolina, the task of bringing our home to market fell to me. That meant hiring five contractors to repair and “freshen” a 54-year-old split-level house while I quickly sorted through three decades of accumulated stuff.

That marathon has taken every minute of the past seven weeks.

I’ve lived in jeans, t-shirts and a baseball cap. I met so many Realtors, appraisers and inspectors I had to start a notebook to keep track of them all. I moved the same piles and boxes so many times, I called a church friend, Lisa Wells, to rescue me from the “rearranging chairs on the Titanic” log jam.

I filled our double driveway twice with donation items to be hauled away – gladly saluting Curtis’s worn out gas grill as it rose on the automatic lift of a dump truck. My new best friends are a DeWalt drill and the trunk of my Saturn station wagon, which I have filled and refilled with loads for Community Thrift, Transitional Housing BARN and the recycling center as we countdown to packing day. I handed off 17 paint cans to a neighbor, Ray Beverage, who will turn it in to the City’s hazardous household waste collection Nov. 15.

While the daily parade of contractors for roof, chimney and brick work (Grappler Construction), interior painting (Edward Enterprises Custom Painting), asbestos tile removal (Envirotex), carpet laying (Sav-on Floors) and curb appeal (Yard-by-Yard Landscaping) did their thing, I vacuumed, scrubbed, Windexed and Pledged everything from ceiling to floor, from lamp globes to baseboard heating, from tile grout to sink pipes. Between rain showers I raked and mowed 26 bags of yard waste and put them at the curb for removal.

When all was ready, the Realtor, Zonia Garcia with Prudential PenFed sent a photographer, whose resulting photos and video tour are now part of the MLS listing on multiple sites. Here’s a link to just one: http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/8908-Fort-Dr_Manassas_VA_20110_M56699-20560?row=18

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To view them is to see a house erased of our existence. Gone are the strawberry rhubarb pies coming out of the oven and onto the cooling rack, or the children’s snow boots, mittens and hats dripping on the laundry room floor.

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Silent are the picnic conversations on the prayer porch, or the printer in my home office, cranking out the articles, newsletters, press releases and client projects. Where is the intimacy of the bedrooms that cradled babies and sheltered dogs, spewed out teenagers late for school, and survived all the wave-tossed passages of two marriages: love, worry, comfort, loss? Only I can explain why our safe deposit box contains a small scrap of wallpaper, a memento of a place where we lived, invited God in, and made Him the center of our lives.

So when friends and colleagues offered to take me to lunch or set up a going away for me, I said no. I needed to do this in layers, to say goodbye here and there, in sizeable chunks. It gives me control; allows me to protect a loss I still find unfathomable. I know this house is not Martin Cross, but his spirit dwelt here, among these people, in this city. He left an impression as strong as the image on Civil War tintypes of boys who never returned. I can’t separate the two. I can only cling for a moment and then let go.

So forgive me for saying goodbye in layers…taking my last communion at Trinity on Burrito Sunday, enjoying my last workout with Nina Lomax today, spending my last weekend not in Manassas, but in Midland, Virginia, with my lifelong friend Kathleen McClelland.

I missed so many things…the Gold Award ceremony for Girl Scout Julia Burk….the Gold Cup reunion with my Leadership Prince William friends…the upcoming Manassas Ballet production of “Colin.”

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I’m taking three things to North Carolina with me: an award I’ll receive on Saturday in Richmond from the Virginia Writers Club; a Kindle from my fellow writers in Write by the Rails (who keep eulogizing me on the Facebook group page like I died – I’ll show them), and a set of QMT wind chimes (thank you Debbie Jewell, C.C. Bartholomew, Kathy Bentz, Carlos Castro, Sharon Henry, Regina Jessop, Debbie Jones and Kendra Kielbasa of LPW Class of 2010!). The chimes will be cherished and hung on my porch in Pine Level, North Carolina, where I will listen to them as I launch my new career as an author – a career that starts November 1 with National Novel Writing Month.

The last layer, the move, is next week. And then I will leave you with my favorite Dag Hammarskjöld quote:

For all that has been — thanks. For all that will be — yes.

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4 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye in Layers

  1. We will miss seeing you all over town, but KNOW you’re only a digital heartbeat away 🙂 Change is scary, but can be invigorating too! Can’t wait to see your musings and writing!

  2. Every book has chapters, and you’re on to the next! And it will be terrific, you’ll see. I am totally and anxiously awaiting to read your first novel. Just write from the heart, like you always do. That’s what wins.

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