Sunday, August 24, 2008

closing ceremony

I'm always a bit sad when the Olympics close, especially the most recent few. For whatever reason, we've had something momentous going on during each of the last three Olympics. In 2004, we got married about a week after the Opening Ceremonies, and we spent our honeymoon in a house in Tobermory. We'd brought our bikes and big plans for hiking and biking the Bruce Trail, but we only did that a few times before we succumbed to the allure of the Olympics. After weeks of wedding preparations, we needed some veg-out time, and we took it.

In 2006, the Winter Opening Ceremonies were playing on the little tv in our hospital room, as we packed up wee Swee'pea into a sleeper that was way too big for him (now impossibly small!). We needed the nurse's help to figure out how to put him into the carseat without breaking him. Once home, the Olympics kept me company through the long night feedings, and it was so nice to have good tv to focus my bleary eyes on. The Closing Ceremonies meant 3 am infomercials, before, finally - at six weeks - I just brought Swee'pea into bed with us and nursed him lying down forever more. "Move over, Sugar D," I said in the middle of one night. "He's comin' in!"

This past June, or maybe it was May, I commented to a coworker that although the last two Olympics had coincided with major life changes, this games would be uneventful, because clearly we didn't have anything significant on the horizon. Now, the Closing Ceremonies coincide with our last full day at this house.

I feel like I should take a moment to thank this house for its shelter, to honour the memories it now holds in its walls and floors. But I don't have the mental space, what with all the logistical details darting around my mind, all these things to remember. Don't forget the stuff in the shed, or the little castle slide in the backyard, or the tools in the basement. I'll have to label the pieces that are staying, and the furniture that's going with the rooms they're going to. I worry I'll regret not taking a moment to say goodbye.

I was 8 years old when I read Black Beauty. My sister gave me a beautiful, leather-bound edition with gorgeous illustrations for Christmas. And immediately I was riveted. But that book sort of broke me. I had to put the book down at one point for more than a week because every time I picked it up, I started sobbing uncontrollably again. It was in the middle of the scene when the old cavalry horse is left riderless in the battlefield, terrified and bewildered in the midst of such carnage. I empathized so strongly with what he must have felt, not having any instructions on how to get out of that chaos alive.

Other scenes from the book made me cry almost as hard, and they always involved horses being taken away from their friends without knowing in advance they were leaving. The saddest thing for me was not moving away or losing friends, but not having the chance to say a proper goodbye, not knowing that the last time you saw them was the last time you would ever see them. It's what makes me the most sad about death, the possibility that you may not get to say goodbye to the people you love.

Later in my life, break-ups that bothered me the same way, because you never knew that the last time you kissed or made love was going to be the last time ever. Or at least that's how it was with all of my previous relationships. I always wished for a do-over, just once, to know enough to savour it in the moment, this last taste of tenderness before it all goes to shit.

And I'm more than a little torn about tomorrow. The movers are coming while Swee'pea is in daycare and we'll no longer have access to the house after we pick him up. We've told him about the new house and he's excited to stay there, but I don't think he really gets it. And I doubt he'll really get it until it's too late to say goodbye. On the one hand, I don't want to put my stuff on him, but I don't want to screw him up the other way either.

I had a panic attack last night. It's been years since I had one. I've had a few panicky starts, but I've always been able to manage it and get the panic under control. Last night, I couldn't. It felt just like the spells I used to have nine years ago, back before I knew they were panic attacks. I thought I had some bizarre disease that, without warning, made me suddenly nauseous and shaky and increased my pulse till it was pounding in my ears.

I was worrying about some stuff in the new house, worried it will lead us to financial ruin (which I've never actually worried about before, strangely). (The new place smells mildewy in the front hall and dining room despite dehumidifying and airing out - and without a basement, we have no way to investigate the situation. I have one of two visions flitting around: 1) we all get sick and die from mould or 2) we lose all our money tearing the house apart to find the mould and sink into financial ruin. Please don't comment on this bit - we have a tiered action plan.)

I was thinking about how deeply Black Beauty affected me. I was trying to sort out how best to help Swee'pea through this transition, whether to keep him out of the movers' hair as originally planned or let him witness the physical process of moving homes to help facilitate the emotional process. But mostly I was utterly exhausted and unable to sleep. My muscles were all tense and I started to feel some gastrointestinal twinges. Then I felt like I was going to vomit. Or my head was going to explode with all the worries darting around. The intense fear made me suspect panic over food poisoning, so I did the things that usual help me resist emerging panic. But it didn't work. I just felt sick and scared and alone, and Sugar D was still packing the kitchen downstairs (yay West coast jet lag!) and I didn't feel like I could manage the stairs to get the company I needed. So I laid on the bathroom floor for a while until I felt well enough to go downstairs, then dozed in front of the Olympics, with occasionally screeches of packing tape behind me in the kitchen.

When we went upstairs, I realized that it was shortly after I read Black Beauty that any time I was overtired, I would become convinced that our barn was going to burn down in the night. I imagined the horses panicked and squealing in the barn all choking black and angry red and the vision was so clear I just knew I was having a premonition. I felt I had to stay awake so I could save the horses. I remember the first time my parents told me they would stay awake so I could sleep, and I was only a little angry to discover in the morning they had gone to bed after all, but not really because the barn was still standing, not a streak of charcoal anywhere. Last night, it struck me that those late night fearfests were probably my first panic attacks, or at least a precursor.

And I don't know where this post is going. Is it a treatise on panic and anxiety? A plea for advice on what to do with Swee'pea? A musing on goodbye and the Olympics? I really have no idea... except I have to keep packing.


Mommy C said...

It's probably too late, but the best thing for your little one would be to give him a box to put some of his very special things in, and make him in charge of it. Then, when you get to the new home, it will be his job to put them away. That would help him to be involved in the move, and understand it better.If its too late, you could pack a special box for him. And, don't worry too much. It wasn't that long ago that we were all nomadic. He'll cope just fine. Oh, one more thing. Go buy the book "Mattland". It's a great picture book about a boy who is angry about moving so much. It will probably give you more sanity than Swee'pea, but it will be well worth the purchase (or borrow it from the library). There are sunny skies in the end and there will be for you, too.

Anonymous said...

Consider getting a tattoo of the Olympic rings! I thought that would be a good way to reinvent myself, "Back in the day gymnastics was my sport, that's right I was a gold medal winner on the balance beam..." and I would have the tattoo to prove it!
Your child will be fine, children are more adaptable than our motherly guilt will allow.
(your) anonymous

Mommy C said...

Anonymous 11:56, I am interested by your talk of tattoos. So many people regret them. I have a tattoo of combat boots (with a rose) on my back. I don't regret it at all. My army boots carried me, literally, everywhere that I am proud of (the army, military university, teaching wilderness survival to troubled youth), except motherhood far. But, for Cinnamon Gurl, I'd have to say Big Ben (the horse)would be more up her alley- Olympics, hopes and dreams, idolization, attaining goals, loyalty, power, strength through partnership, exceeeding what others thought possible, and many many more things, that I am sure are meaningful to CG. And congrats on the gold medal. I've always admired those who could attain their goals.

thordora said...

I think everything you're feeling is completely normal. When we/I leave this house I'm in, it will hurt for all it's faults and problems. My children have grown here! They're growth marks are on the door frame-their feet have etched the floor.

I say, sit down, read that book and have a good cry so you can find your way through the chaos. You're leaving behind a you that went from unsure to sure mother, a you who found a better place in the world.

And that is worth honoring.

Good luck with the packing. I'd help but, well...that's a long walk. :)

wordmama said...

I'm no expert, but I think it might be therapeutic for you, and really cool for Swee'pea to bring him home early from daycare to see the last of the house being moved out. He can experience the house as a blank canvas and perhaps understand the move more as he sees all of your furniture being carried into your new abode. I think you need a chance to say goodbye to the old house with Swee'pea.

Perhaps you could write a farewell on a tucked away wall, scribble down your most treasured memories that occurred in this house. It would be a wonderful find for the next owners and a wonderful way to feel as if you honoured this house and said a proper goodbye. Swee'pea could draw his own picture to mark the occasion. Together you could walk through the empty house and recall some favourite times together before heading to the new house and dreaming up all the memories to be made there!

Mad said...

Sin, I loved this post. I love the way your mind works as it tries to sort through the pieces of your life. I loved the glimpse you gave me of the anxious, horse-loving child you were.

In a couple of weeks, you'll be more or less settled in and all this will be a thing of the past. I have a gut feeling that Swee'pea will love the place and that his transition will be a lot easier than yours. Until then, hang tough, and get SD to give you all the love and support you need.

Beck said...

WE moved here when The Girl was about the same age as your little fella, and I was really braced for it to be a bigger deal than it ended up being.
I would really emphasize - by visiting the same stores and the same library - that he's still HOME, that this is still a familiar place for him.

niobe said...

We moved when my son was about eighteen months old and then again three months before he turned three. It seemed to bother him much less then I worried it might.

But then again, he seems not to have inherited the terrors that haunted my childhood. What you wrote about Black Beauty and about being afraid to sleep because I was sure there would be a fire -- I felt exactly the sames things.