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OUT OF STATE, OUT OF MIND

I’ve been a frustrated writer for many months now, not having written a word because our computer crashed right before our move out of state. It’s finally back. But I’m not sure I am. Just touching the keyboard now feels alien to me, like everything else. Have we landed on Mars? Have we lost contact with Planet Earth? Here we are my husband Bruce and I, in Charleston, South Carolina – voted the #1 most desirable city in the United States, and #2 in the world. Our daughter Janelle and son-in-law Mike and two toddlers moved in with us, temporarily.  To say it’s been chaotic is an understatement. (Our son, Jeffrey, always the logical one of the family, remained in New York, but we’re working on him to join our Nonsectarian cult).

Carolinians speak a different language than us; they’re low-talkers here in low-country, unlike us loud Yankees. The second we open our mouths, everyone knows where we’re from. Dead giveaways: cawfee, dawg, dawta, wawta . . . we were immediately given the test how to pronounce y’all correctly. It took a few tries ‘til we got it right.

They say moving is one of the most stressful things in life. For me it was also an out of body experience. We found the transition challenging, from our home with a big yard to a New Orleans style home on a lake, replicating the historic homes downtown with balconies, shuttered windows, brick courtyards, flower gardens, and Spanish moss. We sit on one of the three levels of piazzas, chasing our dog running back and forth barking at all the passersby with their own dogs.  There are 750 homes in our neighborhood and most families own two to three dogs. Do the math and you’ll know why we’re frazzled.

Before our move there was a ton of preparation. We had four yard sales back home on Long Island to purge all the stuff we accumulated over the past 40 years. The last sale was the toughest, parting with certain sentimental things. They’re just things, I know, but still. I remember handing over my mother’s sewing basket filled with her buttons, embroidery, ric rac, needles and thimbles to a woman, and bursting into tears. She handed me back the basket and said, “It’s okay, you keep it.”

My biggest regret was not being able to part with the thousands of photos – frozen, fragile memories encased in glass frames, separated in bubble wrap from the hundreds of other boxes. How could I possibly part with the time our golden retriever fell asleep with three tennis balls in her mouth? Or when we donned our infant son in a long blonde wig in his baby carriage? Or when our teenage daughter was balancing at the edge of the Grand Canyon in her sparkly platform heels?  I couldn’t!  It was a strange feeling when we pulled away from our house in the driveway, looking back, teary-eyed,  wishing we could take it with us, dismantle it brick by brick, and put it back together again when we reached our new destination. It wasn’t just a house, it was part of our family, and we were abandoning it forever. Goodbye house. Hope your next family fills you with happiness.    

We pulled up to our New Orleans style house with its three levels and helped the movers carry everything up the many flights of stairs. OY! What were we thinking at this age? We were emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted. The heat index reached 115 degrees. Bruce and I were on edge, and either were going to head for divorce court before we unlocked the front door, or else drive off the Ravenel Bridge together.

The next morning a water hose under the kitchen sink got loose like a wild snake, and Janelle and I, who morphed into Lucy and Ethel, tried to hold the beast down, but it had a mind of its own. I grabbed the nearest thing to catch the water shooting out – a potted plant – which quickly turned into a muddy river on our white kitchen floor. We both panicked until her level-headed husband Mike came to the rescue. After the leak, we had to withstand two weeks of lightning storms, and then the infamous 1000-year-Flood. Our bottom floor had water gushing in, and we couldn’t save the rugs, but were grateful no one was hurt. Well, that’s not exactly true. Bruce slipped in the new lake inside our house and fell hard. In fact, it started a whole series of him falling, and we had to keep buying larger and larger bandages. We stayed up overnight with a giant, noisy Wet-Vac machine, and kept fans running. There was an awful loud commotion coming out of our house for three full days.  Everything was going wrong!  From no internet or phone service, emergency visits to the doctor with our grandchildren contracting impetigo, to freaking out when we discovered palmetto bugs (southern roaches the size of flying mice) trying to move in with us.

As I stood on the sidewalk, wringing out wet towels, with my drenched hair lacquered across my forehead in my muddy and torn Capris, a well-groomed southern belle drove by in a shiny red golf cart wearing her pearls and Burberry raincoat, and gave me the Queen’s wave. I stood there with my Carol Burnett mop and pail, and my daughter noticed my bulging eyes, ready to lunge. “Hold me back!” I said.

When the storms passed, and the sun came out once again, neighbors knocked on our door bearing welcoming bread. We were invited to morning coffees, afternoon teas, tennis tournaments, movie groups, book clubs, and on and on. We went on a horse and carriage ride along surrounding quaint streets with porches beautifully decorated for the Christmas season, and it didn’t take long to fall madly in love with the neighborhood.  Again, we can say it’s good to be back in our home sweet home.

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Published by Janet Berg

Janet Lee Berg is a novelist and a blogger, who is known for her freelance writing on the east end of Long Island, NY, including Dan’s Papers. Keep an eye out for the release of her upcoming novel Rembrandt's Shadow, a Holocaust-related story about Sylvie Rosenberg, the privileged daughter of a prominent Dutch art dealer, who never knows her father's love until the day he trades his beloved Rembrandt to the Nazis in exchange for her life.

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