March 26, 2006. On or around that date, I packed up everything in my Brooklyn apartment, carefully wrapping each mug, each bowl, each framed item from the walls. I wrapped some especially breakable things in pillowcases that would otherwise have gone in the trash. I rolled the carafe to my coffee maker in sheet after sheet of paper, turning it into a big pillow of newsprint. On Monday, when our ReloCube finally arrived and we began unpacking, Andrew smoothed out a sheet of the Times and noted that date: March 26, 2006. Pieces of a former life, frozen in time.
I remember those days of packing up. Though saying “yes” to Andrew’s marriage proposal was by far the easiest and most exciting decision I ever made, deciding to move to Barcelona was pretty close. And then there were so many weeks of waiting, of planning and loose-end-tying and more waiting, before I could finally start packing. I don’t remember the specifics of packing—but I remember the constant sense of giddy anticipation as I filled bag after bag with things I knew I’d no longer need, the feeling of physically bringing the New York and living-alone chapter of my life to a close with every box flap sealed with heavy tape. It was the start of a grand adventure, my life’s Volume Two.
I spent yesterday unpacking, spiraling each cup and plate from its smeary wrappings, finding myself surprised at things I hadn’t remembered saving—a blue glass bowl, a jar ringing with a handful of Icelandic kroner. And I found myself moved. I felt as though I were somehow confronting a ghost of another self, a self who had packed all the pieces of her life so carefully, confident that she’d one day return to them—but happy, for the moment, to leave them behind. It was all so much more than I’d hoped and thought it would be. I couldn’t have known that, then.
This grand adventure—I don’t say “the,” because there will surely be other adventures—has ended. I know we left Spain over seven months ago but somehow this—the unpacking, the real settling-in to a new place rather than living in limbo—makes it feel real. I miss it, Barcelona itself as well as that sense of taking a dramatic leap into the unknown. Yet I also know that at some point not too far away—a year, two years, who knows—we’ll be wrapping everything up again (in the NYT’s national edition this time), starting yet another new chapter in another new (or not new) place.
For now, I’m unpacking, peeling back the March 26, 2006 skin of our belongings, returning them to the land of the living. Breaking the spell.