We were blessed with a great little congregation. Not that there have not been times I wanted to rip my hair out over frustration with them, but just like marriage, I believe a congregation chooses you, not the other way around and you stay; a commitment.
Our house is not the only empty place we will leave. By sheer volume of Kelly bodies alone, we will leave an entire pew empty in our quaint little sanctuary. And we worry. Will someone sit and lead other parents and adults in study on Sunday mornings now? Will the archiving of church photos be completed? How will the youth groups fare when losing a large number like this? Not that my family is the be-all end-all for this congregation, but we are a small one and we are not the only ones leaving. One of the members is leaving to live in warmer weather, another has gone home to await us all. Many empty spots will appear over this month and ours will be among them.
I look at my boxes, labeled with things we own and often think, they are just things, they are not what matters. Yet it is the moment I unpack those things that I think of the ones I love and memories we have made along the way. The Austrian cowbell from friends who took thier parents all over the continent when we all lived in Germany. The crystal returned just days ago from co-hosting a fancy fundraiser dinner that will now make me think of her as I put it away in my new home. The vintage map of the Hudson Valley that will be framed and hung to make me think of my dear clothing designer friend, who loves all things vintage. There will be beach passes to empty from my wallet to make me remember a summer spent learning to walk on an injured ankle down to a hidden cove where we sat, sunned and swam with local friends and read trash and fluff all summer. And little things will stay on for a while- probably like my A&P and Shoprite store cards on my keychain- that will be months before I remember to take them off- but see them every time I put a new one on for L.A. groceries and pharmacies.
What is always hardest is realizing that like the forwarded mail, the daily thoughts will become fewer, less noticeable. I will make new friends to add to my growing list of blessings along the way. I will find new haunts for coffee and new local spots for swimming and hanging out. I will not forget NY, nor the friends made here- the family of choice that comes with Army life. I will treasure them and when I pick up these things to pack them again, to leave L.A., I will think the same things again. So they are not just things. They are reminders, they reveal in a way the memories that get forgotten in daily life. They will keep my friends close in my heart, even long years from now when we may have lost touch.
For now though, I wrap them up with care, I label them and I move on to the next item. Because if I don’t, it isn’t about not being ready in time, it is about not being able to function. I have to set them in those boxes and move on. I have to say farewell and start again, just like I did in Savannah, in New Jersey, in Wisconsin, in California, in Germany, in Colorado, in Florida, in Tennessee, in Kentucky, in Virginia, in Michigan, and now, New York.