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

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Changing Horizons

We shared an underdressed kiss standing on the pavement in front of the airport. Bones rattled from February chill; breath turned misty like my eyes.

“Good luck,” I whispered into Justin’s shoulder as I untangled my arms from his back. “Maybe this will be the one.”

“Thanks.” He half smiled. “See you tomorrow.”

Justin boarded a New York-bound plane wearing his only suit pressed into neat lines.

I returned to our Detroit home with cold feet.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

And She said to Follow my Dreams.

I can remember it like it was yesterday.  I was sitting with my mom in white plastic chairs on her front porch talking about life.  I was roughly 21, so my true sense of life had literally barely begun to show itself.  I was probably more  worried about getting to the bar to play some Golden Tee with my brand new boyfriend, Justin, than to sit there and fully grasp the conversation she was trying to have with me.

“Don’t do what I did, Danielle,” she said, shaking her head slowly.  She took a long hit off of her menthol light 100 before finishing.  She exhaled and a cloud of smoke drifted over the porch railing, blue paint chipping of from bad weather over the winter.  “Don’t wait until you’re forty to figure out what makes you happy.”

“But I am happy,” I said.  And I was, or at least I was a superficial version of happy.  One where my judgement was both blissfully ignorant of how cruel the world can be and also clouded from too many late nights at Club Sin where I danced my troubles away over loud music and Jager Bombs.

“I’m serious, Danielle.  Find what makes you happy and do it.  But don’t just do it; do it with your whole heart.”  I rolled my eyes at her for trying to be way too serious.

But my mom was such an intelligent woman who only ever wanted the very best for my sister and me.  And she was often ‘way too serious’ in her conversations, but she was also full of wisdom and life lessons.

This happened to be one of those lessons.

You see, my mom decided when she was in her forties that she wanted to be a nurse. Helping people had always been her passion and it took her forty long years to realize her dreams.

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After she graduated, she worked in hospice and loved every moment of it.  I had never seen her happier.  She would go to work and come home with a smile on her face.  She was happy like that until the day she found out she had cancer, at which time she was no longer able to be around her sick patients.  Having to quit being a nurse made my mom incredibly sad.  Her dream had been crushed by cancer.

Last week, on the four year anniversary of her death, that conversation from her front porch crossed my mind and I literally had a come-to-Jesus moment.

We need to do what makes us happy, no matter what that is, because we have no idea what tomorrow holds.  If we hold off on our dreams they will only ever be just dreams.  And I don’t know about you, but I have big things in store for my dreams, so not going after them TODAY isn’t an option.

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