It’s not just that you’re leaving the known world for an unfamiliar one. It’s that sorting through your stuff is like that moment before death when you’re supposed to see your life flash before your eyes. In my case, the flash lights up a crude wooden heart carved by the guy who became my husband, the weird 3D photograph of my son and me at a friend’s birthday party, a note scrawled by my daughter on a torn scrap of paper—“I love mommy”—and the mildewed, now-too-small shoes I wore for over 30 years on every dress-up occasion.
Moving is like dying because deciding what to toss and what to save is like writing your own epitaph, shaping how your children will remember you. I pore over every belonging with a view to what it will feel like for my daughter or son to stumble on it. I’ve thrown out that crappy novel I never finished writing: even I can’t remember how the American Egyptologist turned up dead in the Valley of the Kings—and I certainly don’t want my kids to find out how bad a writer I was. But I’ve saved an insane number of drawings by my children. I want my kids to find their old artwork and know how much I treasured every little accomplishment of theirs.
I wonder what it will be like in a month or two when I leave the apartment I’ve lived in for nearly 35 years and step into the one I will be living in till I really do die. I like to think I’ll be starting a new life. But I’m a little afraid I’ll be living in a graveyard.