Splendid, thanks. I missed the kids terribly at first, but oddly the feeling diminished day by day until when I was on my way home. I sent them an e-mail from Heathrow, which has computers with video arcade-style coin slots under the table where you drop in a one-pound coin for 10 minutes of access to the Internets. As for the business in England, it went very smoothly, mainly because despite all our tortured history, my brother and I get along quite well now, and both of us fervently wanted to avoid the childish conflict we saw displayed two men in their 60s some years ago as they fought over their mother's valuable possessions (even though neither remotely needed the money) while ignoring most of the stuff with purely sentimental value. It's a surprisingly common phenomenon, having fights over objects from the past when you're really fighting over issues from the past, such as your basic sibling rivalry, who did better in school, who was daddy's favorite, etc. Anyway, we decided what things to auction (quite a lot, actually) and how to divide up stuff to ship back to the States. The packers arrive June 11, the day before our stepfather leaves the house he lived in for 27 years (21 of them with my mother) to move into a cottage near the seaside to be near his wonderful new lady-friend. I can't bring myself to say girlfriend about a man who is over 80.
Hard to believe I'll never set foot in that house again. I took lots of pictures, but what I'll remember mots is the sounds and smells. Things like the cooing of doves on the lichen-covered rooftop across from the skylight, the sound of trains in the distance, the scent of the flowers in the garden. The friendly and slightly musty smell of the little garage where they kept canned goods, gardening tools and about 792 plastic carrier bags. The bathroom aroma of all my mother's cosmetics and creams mixed together, underlaid by that faint but unmistakable odor of mineral-rich Thames Valley tap water. Though the last has been absent since May 2002.
In one of those odd coincidences, my stepfather will be moving at almost the exact same time as our own family. It's starting to feel real, especially since a moving-company guy came over yesterday to eyeball our stuff so as to give us an estimate. We're aiming for the third week in June. I've almost completely given up cleaning our rental house – not that I expended a whole lot of effort in that direction before – because it just doesn't seem worth it and I don't care if I can't stand the mess because it will all be gone soon. Tough I know it's only a matter of time before even bigger and better messes are created in the Forever House. But this time I'm coughing up for a cleaning person.