There they go, each piece just as I had imagined, even wished sometimes. I remember coming home and saying: “I wish someone would come with a moving van and take everything while I am not here and I could come back and find the apartment empty, ready to start over again. Now I will see it so as each piece leaves, having found a new owner. There goes the inlaid wooden dressing table that sat in my Mother’s living room against the wall; it must be ancient and I have no idea where she got it. Yesterday I said goodbye to the end table with the wooden door that slides and curves around to disappear within its own structure, an acquisition of Second Avenue back in the beginning of last century. Was it bought in 1915 when my mother was born? I can’t know. How many houses has it seen to now? And the round table with the lion-foot legs also from Second Avenue that my Grandmother proudly told us over and over, had cost her 10,000 dollars way back then… where was its origin? Who brought it over from the “Old Country” to the United States only to sell it and then have it picked up by my grandmother? Strange table, strange history. Once I thought of selling it and called some antique dealers to come and evaluate it. Oh yes, they said, the top was indeed worth a good bit, but the legs (and they shook their heads) well the originals had obviously been substituted for some that had a much later date and were definitely not worth what my poor grandmother had paid for them even now, much less back then. Out went the four unmatching chairs, each one carefully set apart in the antique store where my grandmother was conned for the table, and paid for painfully in monthly installments which my grandmother took personally to the owner, gripping her purse to her as she rode into the city on the train. The gold leaf mirror with its spirals and peaks, like waves breaking ovally around that belonged to the mother-in-law I never knew because when I met my second partner she had already passed away has also taken leave. I remember the day my partner brought it proudly to the house in the back of his son’s small Renault. How I suffered and how they laughed on discovering that they had gotten it in but couldn’t figure how to get it out other than breaking off peaks and swirls as they maneuvered. With what care and love I had each piece glued back in place. This time it has left in style, in the back of a small van hired to take the three pieces my sister-in-law bought.
And the love-seat that passed from my grandmother to my mother and then to me… It too has found a new owner who came back three times to see it before finally deciding. Did it feel like an orphan watching possible future families and hoping to be chosen? The beautiful carved desk with the leather inlays decorated in delicate gold leaf patterns that weighs so much its small wheels made ruts in my parquet floor every time it was moved, the two empire-style mirrors my grandmother treasured, the clay figure of the Diego-Rivera style Mexican woman that sat so proudly on a side piece in my studio, first in Mexico and then in Madrid, watching me write for the last 20 years, the carved wooden chest that was in my brother’s living room and he gave me when he moved and has sat in my entrance hall since then a catchall for coats and pocketbooks, the bronze pheasants with long proud tails that stood on the sideboard in my dining room after my husband and I laughed and celebrated the ridiculous amount of money we had spent for a mere decoration, the lamps that my mother cherished, each one different, each one an antique in itself, the sideboard carefully crafted in Mexico, a perfect copy of one in a magazine sold by Sotheby’s at an exorbitant price, the secretaire with the drawers and the pullout shelf to write on and the cubbyholes for envelopes and small drawers for pens and trinkets where my mother wrote her careful thank-you notes that she so unsuccessfully tried to teach me to write… all, each object carrying its stores of memories and hopes and frustrations with it. There is the arm chair that was in my mother and father’s bedroom in Mexico where my father used to sit while my mother made up at the dressing table, the small chest by the sofa that belonged to my grandmother and where I as a child used to keep my special doll that I left at her house to play with when I visited. Each thing leaving, trailing behind it stories which will never now be written nor perhaps remembered as my own memory lets each piece go in turn. The house empties… it is what I wished for, it is what I visualized sometimes as I arrived home after a certain absence and put the key in the lock: Maybe everything will have been taken this time, would pop into my mind. Now it is done. There is a certain sadness hidden behind the elation of seeing this space once more empty of “stuff”, a sadness that always is there to mark the end of a period in life and also, yes, a gratitude for the life each piece has spent with me, the joy and beauty or comfort or utility it has brought to my life, a loving memory of the person who thought to buy it and then passed it on to me to enjoy in my own time. Something new is beginning, a new period in which I will undoubtedly accumulate more “stuff” because that is what we humans tend to do, this time simple straight-lined useful “stuff”, but “stuff “ none-the-less. It has begun already, I think, as I remember the mattress (the only piece of furniture awaiting me in the new apartment in Salies) and the boxes that contain the weird blue-bird clock and the butterfly mobile and the hummingbird chimes, yes I can see, the “stuff” begins already even though from here I take but three pieces of furniture, a shelf-full of books and the bare minimum of clothes that I thought still wearable.
On the night before I leave, I carefully walk from room to empty room, admiring the space and pausing long enough to close my eyes and from the depth of my heart thank the floor, the walls, the ceiling for having harbored my dreams and my fears, my good moments and my empty ones, my sadness and my joy for the years I have spent here. At the end, tears are streaming down my face, tears of gratitude and joy, tears of deep seated love, for life, for all that has gone before and all that awaits me tomorrow as I drive to Salies for a new beginning.