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.