A Wise Person Once Said
(Listen to this piece on S2E34 of the podcast)
I am home. My very first home. I picked up the keys from my realtor last night, and now I’m sitting on my ottoman as the movers lug in the heather gray sectional I purchased this year on a Labor Day sale. Three-hundred dollars off the original price. “Only buy your furniture on fluffy holidays,” my grannie likes to say. I was only 18-years-old when she first trained me on this principle. All I needed was a mini-fridge and a bean bag for my dorm room, but she thought this was as good as anytime for this lesson in adulthood.
“What’s a fluffy holiday, Grannie?”
“Fluffy ‘cause they’re light holidays. Like President’s Day or Columbus Day. They don’t take up too much space in your mind, but there’s always a sale good for furniture or car buying.”
I nodded. Good thing that my freshman semester started after Labor Day, because I liked to stock up on Lunchables and mini chocolate milk cartons. And I preferred the cushion of a soft bean bag to a hard desk chair any day.
The movers now have my couch set up, but before I can relax into its cushions, I notice my stairwell light is illuminated even though the windows make it sunny and bright indoors. I click off the light, but notice lights on upstairs as well. Bedroom lights. Bathroom lights. Closet lights. Every single light bulb illuminated upstairs. I switch them all off in irritation. Growing up, my auntie used to shout down the hallway, “Y’all are making my electric bill sky high! Anybody else pay bills around here?” The movers sure weren’t footing my utility bills.
Clicking off the last light, I hear a set of voices coming from outside. Maybe the movers, I think, but I peek out of a bedroom window and see that it is my neighbors walking their dog. I trot down the staircase as intentionally as their Doberman. I need to introduce myself since I hadn’t met anyone yet. Something my daddy would suggest. He would have already known the neighbors by now—even before moving in. He always knew the neighbors no matter where we lived. “Best to make friends with the people who know where you sleep,” he’d say. And I agree.
I move quickly enough to catch Steve and Tiffany as they pass my yard. Those are their names, a cute athletic couple who live two houses down. Their Doberman’s name is Cha-Cha, and they’re having a barbecue I’m now invited to next Friday.
The warmth of the sun caresses my face back in my new home, and I’m almost convinced I’m living a fairy tale life a few hours later when the movers are gone, and my stuff is mostly where I want it to be. In my home. But now I’m hungry and I think I should go out to eat. I have no groceries. But I’m a bit tired, so I consider ordering in. I’m hankering for a pot pie, but pizza will do. Before I can select my toppings, a call comes through my line, taking me away from the pizzeria’s online ordering screen.
“Mover’s gone?” my mama asks.
“They’re gone. Just getting settled now.”
“Nothing like your own home, huh?” mama says, and I agree. She reminds me to get my strength, eat a good meal, because I still have a lot of unpacking and rearranging to do this weekend with all my stuff now here. She believes in orderliness and organization, and I sigh. She is right, the work of homeownership is just beginning.
“And get rid of that raggedy rubber mat,” she says finally. I pause, confused.
“Mat?” I ask, thinking about the black mat outside of my front door.
My doorbell rings, and I ask my mama to wait just a minute while I answer the door.
“You just answer before checking your peephole?” My mama chides as I swing open the door. She hands me a cloth sack. “You got to be careful out here. Even if you know your neighbors.”
I gasp with surprise. Melt into her big hug. Cheeks warmed by her sweet Mama’s kiss. And I’m speechless. I told her I didn’t need her help. That I’d move in osn my own. Because I want my space. But she came anyway. And I’m grateful. Didn’t know how much I’d miss my family moving out on my own. And now Mama’s whisking back to the car before I can tell her thank you.
“We’re just an hour away,” she bellows out the driver’s seat window as she backs out of my driveway. She waves, and then she’s gone. And I turn back into my house. My own house. My first home. And it feels so empty all of a sudden. I open the sack my mama handed me and smile. I set the homemade pot pie on my kitchen counter next to the boxed toaster and a pack of paper towel.
“Every goodbye ain’t gone,” my grandpop would say in a moment like this one. And he’s right. They’re all right. Because even though I’ve said goodbye to the people who raised me, the things I carry from them in my heart haven’t left.