In 2009, as I cleared out Florence's apartment in preparation for new tenants, a seven part series on Diaspora was created. Below is a post on that clearing's last day.
The Exhaustion of Diaspora:
Part Six - Home Where My Love Lies Waiting*
"The Exhaustion of Diaspora" is a week long series of what it means to leave home and seek home and sometimes even find home, but not necessarily in any particular order.
And so it is time.
There is nothing much left to do.
Outside it pours cold rain. Inside all boxes meant to be packed have been packed, and all items meant to be left to offer the illusion of home to possible paying inhabitants have been tucked into our childhood bedroom -- the bedroom Mom moved into after shaking off an unhappy marriage and suffocating life.
(Once settled in our old bedroom, she never slept anywhere else with the exception of two occasions. A brief period on the living room couch when one of us accidentally returned home and one night a year ago returning to her marital bedroom and crawling into our childhood single bed the Home Attendants now slept on.
"This is my home," she said and refused to go back to her own bed. For some reason I was still in the house and gently coaxed her back into the bedroom she had claimed years ago by cooing softly to her "This is where you slept when you were very unhappy. This was a very unhappy place for you. But let's go back to the bed where you are happy. Your happy bed." And holding hands she and I walked back to her own bed where her sorrows and her joys were her own.)
Now what is left of her sorrows and her joys lies in a canister nestled in my big satchel along with little things like left-over sandwich bags and her old mirror that she used to scrutinize her hand technique at her piano. There are numbers on the lid of the can and like any good Jew I think of the concentration camps. The distillation of a person into a number.
Outside the rain is hard and the night dark. I am carrying too much for a bus and besides I have just missed one. Until gentrification, there were no cabs on Grand Street, but with the influx of the new residents buying at market value that clearly has changed because suddenly right in front of me there is a shiny empty taxicab.
As we barrel up Essex Street, I look at the name of the driver. Mr. A. is from Togo. He hasn't been home in five years. It is very difficult being so far away from home, he tells me. But things aren't good there. And here he is studying mathematics at Columbia. But yes it is hard. He misses home.
The way he says home and miss and family shreds what's left of my heart.
As Mom packed up her will to live and her ability to walk, I lost the man I loved, the one I believed I would die with, the home I thought we'd live in, the family I hope would always welcome me.
Those bad weekday nights and brutal weekend afternoons I'd make myself think of my grandmother at 17 getting on a ship and fleeing to America, never to see her mother or her favorite brother ever again. And then I’d remind myself, "Who the hell am I to think I am excused from Diaspora? Who the hell am I?"
We leave our homes in boats and planes and taxis and cardboard cans. We leave with hope or in terror. We leave with our hearts broken open or our hearts bursting open. But we leave.
The rain rains. Light skitters across wet streets. Traffic signals change. Diaspora begins.
*Homeward Bound (Simon & Garfunkel)
I wish I was
Home, where my thoughts escaping
Home, where my musics playing
Home, where my love lies waiting
Silently for me
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