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Home isn't a place, they say, it's a feeling. But this place was home.
For 11 years, we filled the rooms of this San Francisco house with memories.
It was the first “real” home (single-family, not-shared) that Marido and I purchased together. One month after we moved in, I got pregnant.
When Filha was born we brought her here, to these rooms. This is where she learned to stand, to crawl, to walk, to run and climb. It’s the only house she’s ever called home.
We have filled these rooms with laughter, with friends, with books. Here is where we’ve survived some of our darkest days, and floated through our lightest.
These walls have borne witness to weeping, to rage and fear and “intense discussions.” They’ve also seen us hatch brilliant plots and write fantastic poems and stay up far too late, dreaming.
Other than my childhood home in Illinois, this house has been the place I’ve lived the longest. But now, our home is emptied out (and so am I, tbh).
Last Thursday, the shipping container came. We packed 900 square feet full of things we want to see on the other side of the ocean. (Including a very important dragon and shark friend, snuggled close together for the long journey.)
We’re spending our last weeks just 34 blocks away, in a friends’ Airbnb that was once an apartment Marido and I shared, pre-Filha. Its familiarity makes for a soft landing, before we lug our suitcases to the airport for that final boarding call.
In the last few weeks, we have actually done a few things other than packing and moving, or thinking about packing and moving. (Or waiting for my D7 visa, which *still* hasn’t arrived—quick pause as I hyperventilate into a paper bag.)
On May 2, I squeezed in one last Permission to Speak talk, this one for the inspiring RE-INC community. On May 7, we drove 4 hours east to Fish Camp, California, which is up near Yosemite. It’s the site of our favorite camping spot called Summerdale, and we spent a long weekend with a few friends under the trees.
Then we gave away our tent and camping kit and packed our sleeping bags in the shipping container. So maybe we didn’t really stop thinking about packing and moving?
Mostly, I feel the swiftness of time. Every moment leaves its mark as it rushes past. I keep thinking, “This is the last time I see this view/drive this street/shop this store.”
“This is the last time Filha and her best friend B walk the two-and-a-half blocks between their houses for a playdate.”
Don’t feel too sorry for me, though. All these goodbyes, this river of sadness we’re wading through—it’s of our own making. We have brought this ending upon ourselves. I remember this every time I or a friend burst into tears mid-conversation.
Lying in an unfamiliar bed last night, feeling those minutes flash past as I waited for my brain to shut down, I was chock full of WTF: “What the fuck are we doing this for? Might we actually be insane?”
But then I remember this saying, “Everything you’ve ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear.” I want to tell you it’s a quote from a really wise person, but actually it was just some old white dude. But also Will Smith.
The point, for me, is that scary things are worth doing. If I let my fears run the show, I would still be living back in Midwest farmland. I would have never left. I wouldn’t have gone to university. I wouldn’t have moved to San Francisco. I wouldn’t have ever stood on a stage and read my poetry into a microphone. I wouldn’t have shared anything I wrote with anyone, ever. I wouldn’t have learned to ride horses, or motorcycles. I wouldn’t have taken half the jobs I’ve held. I wouldn’t have traveled. Wouldn’t have gotten married or bought a house. I sure as shit wouldn’t have had a child.
Everything I’ve ever done that I’m SO GLAD I did, I was afraid of first. I questioned myself, wondered if I might be crazy. But then I did it, anyway.
So am I scared to leave my friends, my family, my home, my country? Yes. I am 100% terrified at least 50% of the time. But I am doing it anyway. Because I believe something beautiful and amazing, something as of yet unimaginable, will happen only after we take that leap.
It won’t be long now.
Marido leaves in 15 days. Filha and I follow 10 days later. Until then, we say our goodbyes.
This morning, after dropping Filha at school, I should have returned to the Airbnb on Judah Street and gotten to work. I still have a job, until May 31. There are tasks to check off and suitcases to re-pack (with compression bags, this time).
Instead, my heart led me back to our orange house with the seahorse shutters. I walked through the empty rooms, unsure of what I was looking for. For a few last moments, I stood there alone and let the memories ricochet.
Copyright © 2021 LaDonna Witmer