…practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
(Excerpted from “One Art”- Elizabeth Bishop: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15212)
I have two days left in the U.S. Though I waited for the shipping company for over a week, TransCaribe finally arrived with the three storage barrels that were needed to ship my belongings to Kingston; and now, everything’s packed, including my suitcase of Una and Mizani hair supplies. Yes, both hair care companies have websites and international shipping, but the state of black women’s hair– those that have relaxers– in Europe scares me, hence the preparedness.
The shipping company, in true Caribbean fashion, took their own sweet time in bringing the three jumbo barrels. Apparently, in Jamaicanese, “soon come” means approximately nine days or more from the hour one’s called. I’ve been away from Jamaica too long, I remember “soon come” meaning “at least a few hours or less than a week,” but nope, it means “over two hundred hours.” My mother, in true motherly fashion, worried and nagged until they came. Then in truer Jamaican fashion, we delayed packing, and fled to the Village to consume Italian food.
Packing was delightful, a delightful purging and remembrance. Since the barrels are narrow, and hold a maximum of three-hundred pounds, only the most essential items can be deposited. In the trash went old college essays (years old), magazines, cds already uploaded on my ipod, an irreparable geisha doll from 1988, and an eight page letter from a guy listing the many reasons that he wasn’t in love with me (why in God’s name was I holding onto that?!).
I packed the essentials, which included cards, mementos and letters from my eighth birthday onward (“Happy 13th, 15th, 21st, 23rd”…yikes, on and on); the oldest item, a copy of Mr. Meddle’s Muddles from my brother, dated 1983. Reading the old cards, I remembered incidents long forgotten, and reminded myself that I loved and was loved by people no longer in my life. There were names on cards of former friends of whom I can’t recall faces, and sentiments on high school birthday cards like, “For all that we’ve been through,” and “We’ll be friends forever.” I wonder what we’d been through, since I certainly can’t remember any life-changing events in high school. A college friend gave me a birthday card that jokes, “We will be free.” Judging from the cards, it seems that life has been zany, funny, wacky and “profound.”
And here we are– this chapter of living and working in the U.S, which lasted three and a half years this time, and resulted in major losses and gains, is now almost over. It’s easy to become comfortable (even in a less than ideal place), and though I know it’s best to move on, it seems strange that I’ll have to start all over again. Again. Soon, it’ll be time to make new friends, navigate a new train system, learn new neighborhoods, decipher a new language, minimally decorate a new apartment, and redefine myself. The best thing about a new environment is that it can lead to a constant redefinition of oneself.
Every day, friends ask me if I’m excited or assert that this must be “such an exciting experience.” Yesterday, a friend on Facebook wrote that not only must I be “excited and happy, but nervous and sad as well.” It struck me that Anna hit the emotion that I hadn’t quite defined on the head. In this tumult of packing, shopping, organizing, meeting up with friends for last drinks and suppers, closing accounts, wiring money, and telling acquaintances about my impending adventure, there is sadness. I’ve given up a bi-weekly paycheck for uncertainty; I’m also giving up my beloved NYC, the known, a cheap place, and an uncomfortable yet sure existence.
However, as I sat after packing with my mother, Lady Marmabug landed on me. She sat and drooled on my finger for some time (I hope that was drool). This site: http://www.symbolic-meanings.com/2007/11/13/brief-symbolic-meaning-of-the-ladybug/ informed me that the ladybug represents luck, love, and protection. Thus despite apparent losses, I’m excited to see what there is to gain.