Leaving Detroit

“See you soon.” Kiss your husband goodbye in Detroit. He’s going to New York to begin his career, and you’re staying to pack. He’ll come back to get you in one month so you can begin the next chapter of your lives together.

It’s okay to be scared.

Fold your clothes and place them into cardboard boxes. Long sleeves first, because it’s almost summer. If it’s on a hanger, you pack it that way. It will make unpacking in your new apartment easier. Leave out the sweatshirt with the Old English D, because you might need it at night when the cool breeze blows off the Detroit River.

Wrap the kitchen glasses in grocery bags because you can’t afford bubble wrap or newspaper. You don’t have many pots or pans, just hand-me-downs from your mom. You think of keeping one out in case you cook but decide to live on sandwiches, salads, and cereal. It’s only a month, after all. You pack them away and tape the box shut.

Leave the things you won’t have room for in your new life next to the trash chute. Old artwork and chairs from Ikea that won’t fit in the truck, the ripped Nelly Furtado hoodie that carries memories of late nights and laughter in its pocket, and the s-shaped shelf that used to hold photos of friends: someone will take it. Someone will love it or maybe throw it away.

Each day after work, walk the dog around Comerica Park. Try to remember the way the home runs echoed off your favorite players’ bats. Remember the chants for Magglio, Verlander’s no-hitter, and Zumia’s wicked fastball. You wonder if watching the Yankees will give you the same joy. Will you forget how much you loved nestling into the crowd for a Saturday night game?

Remember the taste of the Hebrew National with just mustard, and the way the August sun would drop behind the top of the stadium as you took that first bite. Will New York have Hebrew Nationals or Ball Park Franks? Will the sunsets look different in Brooklyn? Will the sky change from blue to pink and crimson before settling in below the trees? Will the buildings be too tall to see the beauty? Will your neighborhood even have trees to look at, to smell in autumn, to catch snow in winter, and to bloom in the spring?

Before the big move, have your friends over one last time. Dance with them. Sing with them. Reminisce about the late night parties in your apartment. Tell them no one could ever replace them because they are so special. Look them in the eyes and promise you will never let go, even with hundreds of miles stretching between your palms and theirs.

They will promise the same.

But you know you’ve never been very good at keeping in touch from long distances.

When your husband comes home thirty days later, kiss him. Hug him. Tell him how much you’ve missed him. Smell his cologne. It’s the one scent that goes with you from the place you thought you’d live forever.

Remember why you’re going: his career, your future together. Detroit is crumbling, the auto industry has collapsed. If you stay, your s-shaped shelf and the happy faces in those photos may fall to dust with the city. Better to leave now and salvage what’s left.

Watch all your things get carried out: boxes, blue leather couch, old dresser, your favorite vintage lamp. One by one they leave your home and get loaded into the big, yellow truck. The things that can’t fit are the things you have to leave behind.

Say goodbye to the empty space, the parquet wood floors, the echo off your avocado-green wall, the memories of home.

It’s okay to cry.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Categories nonfiction, UncategorizedTags , , , , , , , , , ,

25 thoughts on “Leaving Detroit

  1. Wow. You are such an excellent writer. I actually FEEL a pang of homesickness and sadness, because of your words. You never cease to amaze me. Xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So good. Such an amazing talent you have Danielle! Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brilliant! I have never moved with my husband to any other city. It’s been 7 years in Bangalore and sometimes I wonder, how would it be if I were to move and leave things behind. Have another home in a city that I don’t know. This post just hit home with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Correction – 12 in Bangalore and 8 of leaving with him. What was I thinking 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I really related to the paragraph about leaving beloved things in the trash chute. It’s funny how hard it is to part with things we barely notice before we have to leave. And how empty the home looks without all these things inside it. I could really relate to this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I started tearing up while reading this. I, too, moved from Detroit, only I went to Phoenix, AZ. Clear across the country, there was no telling what to expect. That was 11 years ago January 30th (I’m pretty sure) and though I miss Detroit and all of the family and friends I left behind (ALL of my family lives in Detroit; just my mom, dad, sister, and I moved), I have to say the closest friends stayed in contact (took one of them to see the sunrise at the Grand Canyon when she came to visit), and the opportunities I’ve had while here in Phoenix have made the move more than worth it 🙂

    My dad was an apprentice when the Ren Center was being built… he was one of the guys walking on the 17th story beams without any harness, trying to put the building together haha. He worked in the Penobscot building some time after that. I’ll never forget watching baseball games at Comerica Park, with the whales on the Broderick Tower in full view. I was actually at the June 12, 2007 game when Verlander threw a no-hitter!

    All that to say I’ve never been to another city quite like Detroit, especially having grown up there, but I have every last memory and they make it that much more enjoyable when I return, and keep me company while I’m away. However, forward motion is the only way to make sure you don’t slip backwards, and how amazing that your husband got a job in New York! That’s sure to be exciting, and especially wonderful knowing you’re moving with your soulmate.

    Best wishes for you and him as you begin this journey 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, December Rose! This is actually something that happened almost ten years ago. I think we sometimes need that distance to gain clarity.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha well what a coincidence. When I read the line “the city is crumbling” I was confused because it’s actually doing very well now haha. Context is everything lol. I hope everything has gone well for you two 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I’ve been back and it’s pretty incredible! Detroit will always find a way. It’s such a special place

        Liked by 1 person

      3. And it has! We’re in Virginia now, far from NYC. That city is fun, but not for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Haha fair enough. I’ve never been, but I imagine it’s got the good and the bad like most big cities.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. The beginning of this piece is so anticipatory and then translates smoothly into the actual action of moving. It feels so bittersweet – sad without losing the hope of a new beginning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Michelle! And thank you for the beta read!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You’ve captured all of the hopes and fears inherent in a move to a new location. I love how this was written as a gentle talk with yourself, an effort to console yourself as well as keep yourself on task to get things done. This was an enjoyable read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I wanted to make it like a to-do list of sorts. Glad it worked for you 😊


  8. I really loved the changes you made to this since I read it. Somehow it is more sad and more hopeful with those little details smoothed out. The second person is so hard, but it really works here and the way you wrote it so smoothly I almost forgot it was in second person.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Tara! And thank you for your beta read! 😘


  9. How I wanted to read this over and over again. Reminded me of the time I moved to the USA from India. I was packing with tears running down my face like streams.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Reminded of the heartbreak when we moved to the USA from India. I have read this over and over again. thanks Danielle!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sarah! Glad you liked it 🙂


  11. I remember this piece. Lovely writing. I love how it sounds like a to-do list but full of emotion.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve moved so many times since I turned 21 that I’m a bit numb to it now. Of course it helps that the internet lets me keep all of my friends. I didn’t have that the first 32 years of my life so it’s so much easier now.


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