the place i used to live

My home is in the process of becoming something else.

I spent the weekend packing what remained after D and the U-Haul moved south, vacuuming the carpets, scrubbing the bathrooms, washing the floors, and reviewing 10 years of tax filings and paperwork I deemed necessary to haul 900 miles from California to Utah three years ago.

In the process I discovered paystubs stemming back to 2004; the usual boring car insurance forms I never bothered to open, let alone file properly; school loan documents; my SAT scores from high school; university rejection letters; and more sentimental writing from college. Tonight I burned all of it. I refused to carry them another mile across the country to another home where they will sit untouched in the back of a closet.

But I also discovered other things. Things I am keeping. Like notes from old friends; cards my grandmother sent telling me not to worry about my future postmarked six years ago; and the last birthday card my other nana ever wrote me before she died. I found letters I wrote to an ex-boyfriend while working my first reporting job and pretending to take notes during city council meetings when I was one of three people not on city pay rolls in attendance that I never got around to mailing. And postcards I sent D after he moved to Utah and I was still living in San Francisco.

I also unearthed a mock newspaper my two journalist friends created when they got married. I was a bridesmaid in their wedding. My bio in the paper included this sentence the bride wrote describing how we met and our friendship: “We trusted each other in an untrustworthy place.” It was true. The paper is starting to yellow as papers tend to do over time, but I couldn’t steel myself to toss it. Not yet. Maybe before the next move.

Wedged along the spine of a science notebook from middle school (at this point you may be wondering if I have some sort of problem. No, I am not a pack rat. I just don’t do paperwork. This is part of the reason I never got around to applying for a Utah license and why I opted not to change my name after getting married.) I found a list I must have written at some point in college detailing the 12 reasons I am better off single. I laughed when I reread it. Some bullet points are true. Some are not.  Still, I tore out the list, tossed the notebook, and put it in my files bound for Austin. Some things do not change.

And some things do. Among the crates of paper I found copies of newspapers I used to write for that are long defunct. Their websites are down. They are the only evidence I have documenting that part of my life. Over the years I pared down the clips, recycling some, and salvaging others, even though they are beyond the point of relevance. Sometimes I regret leaving the profession. There is nothing like working in a newsroom. It’s the only environment I’ve ever worked in where I didn’t have the dirtiest mouth in the room.

After tonight I will be completely moved out of the house and into an efficiency apartment down the street where I will live out the rest of my days in Utah. I leave for Texas in August. The apartment is the first driveway I pulled into when I arrived in Logan. And it will be the last I leave.

When I saw it was for rent this summer I jumped on it because the house we had been occupying for the past two years sold and I needed some place to rest my head. Despite its weary frame, I was eager to sign the lease. There is something rather comforting about knowing exactly where the light switches are in a place. I am proof you can go home again. My checkbook still has the address listed on it from three years earlier …

This leads me back to tonight’s burning.

I did it at the old house in the backyard on the grill. I waited until I had mopped the kitchen floor and locked the door to it for the last time. I ignited them after I said goodbye to my garden where my peas are the strongest crop I’ve planted to date. I plucked off a pod – the first of the season – and split it in two then scooped the infant peas into my mouth. They were sweet and will be perfect in a few more days.

As I watched the pages curl in the fire I thought of the bosses from my past when I tossed the pay stubs in. I remembered friends and the people who have come and gone in my life when I added the cards that don’t make the cut this time. Afterward I wet the ashes and put them in the compost heap, turned off the flame, and left the place I used to live.

3 thoughts on “the place i used to live

  1. Lovely! And, funny… because I came across your blog as I was visiting my blog that I wrote all of 3 entries to back in 2009. Following links I was brought back to your blog – which I haven’t read in quite some time. But I always enjoy every post you share. I laughed out loud about the reasons to stay single list. I would love to read it one day! Tomorrow I have on my schedule a deep cleaning of paperwork to do… I wonder what I will find 🙂

  2. I will email you a copy of my better off single list. I think if you feel good about being single, and good about being married, then you are probably doing alright. Anyhow. Good luck with all the cleaning and paperwork. I know that isn’t fun. But I hope you find something awesome in the piles.

  3. Kristen, your blog posts always make my heart swell, but I can relate on your journey here. Maybe part of the reason you didn’t change your name when you got married is because you are very much the same person you have always been, independent, creative, strong, and sensitive. I love your stories, I love your humility and humor, your honesty, and of course your brilliant writing. Sending love for that final month in Utah. If it makes you feel better the weather is nicer in Logan than Austin right now, I reckon!
    See you soon!!

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