Never suppress a generous impulse. It made me think of Paul and his acts of service for neighbors over the years. Even at times for strangers. He’s been this way since we met and I suspect long before.
This was our farewell party. Neighbors gathered down around the corner on Rebecca and Steven’s deck overlooking an expanse of grass surrounded by thick towering oaks. “I think it’s bad luck to move your liquor cabinet,” teased Steven with his cheerful Irish wink the week before. So it was decided that a party was essential to our fate and well being.
With the west end of the great room piled with boxes (most still flapping open) and our mattresses laid out in front of the fireplace for a final night sleep ahead, we forced ourselves to interrupt the work to shower and change. Nathan and Lia (the new owners, and our new friends) came to collect us to walk down the block together. You’d think that would be strange, but no. In some ways Paul thinks maybe the house was always built for them. I believe they think so too.
Bowls of hummus and pita were set out on the long table; another had wine and lemonade. Coolers below held beer and soda. Kids climbing fences quipped up from the yard. An occasional warm dog nose pressed into our knees for attention. It was like any other summer kick-off but for being on the receiving end of everyone’s bittersweet smile. Each voice and form became a mental picture. This would be the last night of my life on Flower.
It’s the street, the house name, and the life we built for thirteen years. It was a place where bonds formed with a paced, storied substance: power outage barbeques, lost cat reconnaissance missions, vegetable garden weeding, and shared tools and snow shoveling.
“These are your memories!” shouted Alison as we huddled close for photos at dusk. Nikita baked chocolate cupcakes with Ready-whip to squirt into the centers, and the deck was tested under a line of kids squirreling them away. Latonya said she felt like she was losing a sister. I escaped my own emotions for a drink in the kitchen.
Admiring the fabrics, landscape paintings and mixed woods of Rebecca’s home, I looked forward to layering elements of personality into our new place. That’s when I thumbed through her tiny book: The New Interpretation of Epictetus, landing on the passage: Never suppress a generous impulse.
Friends trailed off and kids ate hot dogs as our circle grew smaller. Talk turned to the renaissance of our neighborhood, the importance of craftsmanship and building community, and our contribution. We were the last to leave.
The next day was clear, golden and warm. The kids climbed the tree house while Paul loaded the truck with precision and I scrubbed down the refrigerator. Brian, Hetty, and little Clementine next door, came over with arms full of freshly dug strawberry plants from their yard for ours. Rebecca and the kids came by to send us off and to give me a card.
With every inch of the rental and my car completely crammed full, we took a final walk through the empty house. It had never been empty before. I felt something was left undone. It still needed something that I could give.
It wasn’t ours anymore. We left the keys on the kitchen counter with a bottle of champagne and well wishes.
Helen bolted back inside, up to her room and closed herself in the closet. I wrapped myself around her on the floor. “I understand. I feel the same,” was all I could think of to sooth her. I said a prayer aloud for all we’d been given in this home and for what would come.
Joan ran around the side yard to collect a few rocks for them each to keep. Marty, not fully aware of the significance of the moment, was ready to co-pilot the rental truck.
Before starting the car I opened the envelope from Rebecca. It was the little book from her collection: A Manual for Living – a new interpretation of Epictetus. She had sent us on our way with a memorable generous impulse of her own.