Closing Time: One Last Call for Memories

We finally had a closing date. It was to be the day after Christmas. I panicked and scrambled to complete all the packing I had been putting off until we had a firm date. Hubby would have had me just throw things in boxes, but my organized brain had to pick through and categorize every item. My sentimental heart had to pause, remember, and reminisce.

Since most everything was packed up, we did something different and ate dinner out on Christmas Eve. We chose an Italian restaurant, and I was surprised by how many patrons were there. It was just the six of us at our table, and I wanted to make it special even if we weren't technically in our own house for our last Christmas Eve. I smiled and tried to engage the boys in games of Tic Tac Toe while we waited for our food, and I ignored their continued whines that it was taking too long.

"Let's talk about our favorite memories of our house," I suggested.

"When Baby E came home from the hospital," began Knox. That surprised me, but made me puff my chest in pride. Joey was always so happy when the new babies came home, too.

Edgie (formerly Baby E) added, "Snow sledding in the front yard!" That was a memory that involved Knox as well. He would pull Edgie down the small slope in our front yard and end up in our neighbor's driveway.

Slim offered this funny nugget: "When I used to run in circles around the house!" Our stairway was in the center of the house, and every morning Slim would run down the stairs and make several laps down the hallway, through the kitchen, through the dining room, and through the living room. Honestly, that was kind of my first indication that something about him was a little different. But, since I can't remember the last time he did that, it's really a marker for how far he's come developmentally.

Lil' C's memory surprised me and made me giggle: "I liked when Joey and Knox went down the waterslide in the backyard!" When Joey and Slim were three and Knox was a little over a year old, we made the slide into a water slide with the hose. Knox had decided to strip off his diaper and go down nakey. Joey, always wanting to be part of the fun, stripped off his clothes, too. Slim was operating the hose, and Hubby and I were sitting in lawn chairs crying from laughing so hard. It was just one of those moments you can't plan. And Lil' C? He was a seven-month-old fetus in my tummy. He has heard us tell that story so many times, I'm sure he feels like he was "there."

Dinner was nice, and once home I retrieved all the Santa presents out of their in-plain-sight hiding places (the moving boxes). Christmas day was a blur of wrapping paper and plastic ware on which we ate our traditional Christmas morning cinnamon rolls. Toys and last-minute "must be packed items" littered the house. Hubby's sister has people over every Christmas night, and I told Hubby to take the boys while I continued packing.

"Just come over," he implored. "Take a break. This will still be here in two hours (that's what I was afraid of). C'mon. It would mean so much to all your boys."

Usually, he doesn't care what I do; but I knew it meant something for me to be there. So I took a break and went. I'm lucky to have wonderful in-laws whom I truly enjoy. And a lot of them! We recruited lots of help for our move.

That night, into the wee hours of the morning, I was packing. My problem was the basement, and all of the things stored down there that no one really knew about but me. All of the boys' things I wanted to save. Pictures, cards, memories. Joey stuff. All last year I thought I would get it organized, but that never happened. I didn't want the movers to touch it. I sat in the basement amid the mountainous stacks of boxes and cried. Partly from exhaustion, partly from regret over my own disorganization, and partly because I was thinking of MY favorite memory of the house.

We used to have dance parties in the basement when all the boys were little. We would crank up some kiddie music - usually Raffi - and just dance and giggle until we all dropped exhausted on the floor. I could almost hear the music playing "Knees Up Mother Brown," which was Joey's favorite. I swore I could hear his giggles.

I always knew, even though Joey died in that house, there he did not remain. I spent the last year, though, scared that somehow we would be leaving him behind. The next day, as I walked through the empty house ready to follow the moving truck to our new one, I spoke aloud, "Joey, we're going now. You come with us, okay? You come with us. Don't stay here. We're going."

In a flurry, I was telling people where to put things, what boxes to unpack, which ones to leave for later. I fell, exhausted, night after night into my bed in my new smaller, cozier bedroom. As I organized this and cleaned that and made those things fit into this space, I managed to check e-mail on my phone.

What was happening was incredible.

This post from 2012 was making the rounds again. People were commenting in droves both online and in person, even more so than when it originally was posted. Hubby was even receiving calls at work telling him they had seen it. People from all over the country were reaching out to me.

I am convinced this was Joey's way of telling me that he knows where to find us. Considering that he would be tickled beyond all belief that something written about him is getting all this attention and considering that it came out of the blue two years later right at a time that I needed a sign was amazing. This good memory. This way of bringing Joey with us wherever we go. I choose to believe that he had a hand in it. I need to believe that.

So here we sit amid boxes and discarded bubble wrap with still so much to do and organize, yet we are home and cozy and familiar already. I go and check on the old house, still unsold. It seems cavernous to me and unfamiliar, like I am seeing it with different eyes. It feels lonely and desolate; and I don't like going there. It reminds me of how I feel about going to Joey's grave. I don't like going there either. He's not there, nor is he at the old house. I know that. I know that he - and our memories - are always with us. All right here in the new house where they are supposed to be.

For someone like me, who hates change, this is important to remember. 

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