Really, I'm not ready to write about selling the house, packing up, saying goodbye and leaving Fort Lauderdale. Not ready yet to try and put the emotion--or revisit those emotions--into words. Yet, that's what I'm thinking of this morning.
We--my wife, my two daughters and I, our cats, our dog--lived in that house for over (what?) fourteen, fifteen years. Which, I believe, is the longest I've lived in one continuous spot for my whole life. I knew a lot of people in South Florida, in Fort Lauderdale, in my neighborhood, on my street. I had great and comfortable friends. I knew the plants, the seasons (yes, there are seasons in South Florida), the insects, the birds and reptiles and some fish. I knew my palms and oaks and flowering plants, my weeds and vines, my waterways and streets and communities from Key West to, basically, Neptune Beach in Jacksonville. I knew a lot of Florida--the Keys to Pensacola--with only the Tampa Bay/St. Pete area as an exclusion. Sure, it had gotten a little stale now and then, but like I said, I was comfortable.
And then we left.
I was the last one out--me and my dog and the two older cats. (My wife's cat--my cat, too--from when I first met her, M.R., she lived with us until about 2000 before she dies at the age of 20 or 21; I buried her beneath the Royal Palm in the back yard.) Our youngest daughter was in her first year at FSU and our older daughter was with my wife up north, staying in an apartment while looking for a house.
So, all our stuff was gone with the movers and put into storage. I had the Volvo and a number of boxes of personal things plus my clothes and computer plus things necessary for the dog and the two older cats.
I had made last minute plans to go to Neptune Beach and stay with Bill, but that was only temporary. had made more concrete plans to rent the condo on Camp Street in New Orleans (where my wife had sent a year; where I had spent months on the last year) . . .
Anyway, as I noted, I'm not really ready to write about it. Though, I will say, the very day I left Fort Lauderdale--January 12th, 2012, I'm pretty sure--in a full car with three animals, by the time I was up to Daytona, my brother called and told me our mother was in the hospital (she never did go back home and died by August). And that's how the year went. By the time I hit Tallahassee to see my daughter, all the animals had fleas. I had to go to a vet there to get flea-killing pills.
But two things I remember that I will write about briefly here:
One: I stayed across the street at Billy's house after I moved out. For three days, I think. And my dog could not figure out why we slept there. She knew Billy and his house quite well, but one of the saddest things was when she crossed the street and went to the front door of our house that was no longer ours and scratched the door and looked at me as I stood watching her from across the street, and could not understand why she could not go home, why I could not open the door . . . That still bothers me and it was why I could not stay at Billy's longer than three or four days even though he wanted us to be there for as long as we cared to.
Two: Was the first night at Billy's, in his spare bedroom with a single bed, that night when it was time to sleep, the freaked-out cats, my freaked-out dog and my freaked-out self, all climbed into the bed and huddled together. There was little space but we didn't care, we welcomed the intimacy I guess; cats, dog, human. It was all we had--ourselves in that bed in that room and the bed and the room did not belong to us. So, indeed: all we had was ourselves.
Okay. I guess I ended up writing about the move to some degree. There's more. There's always more. It was not a crisis. It was not the death of my mother--which is also not a crisis, though it's more important, a deeper experience and also a certain sorrow certainly from my mother's perspective and not just my own.
My family moved out. I lost my house, my friends and neighbors, the climate and landscapes, the plants, I knew well. My kids lost their childhood home and childhood friends. I'm uncertain as to what my wife lost (though she almost lost me). I had moved around quite a bit as a kid, a lot as a young adult. I was happy having a home.
Fort Lauderdale was very much home.