December 14, 2011

“No!” My mom shouted at the cat, which promptly ran into the house through the open door.

It was a fraught morning, the moving guys ready to roll, the house empty after 50 years of life there.

It was not our cat; grey and white; lovely, really.  We had never had a cat.

My brother and I had spent the day before and late into the night boxing up and tossing out, giving away and sorting out.  The last box we’d found contained the last of my old papers.  I hadn’t lived in this house since 1978.  Circa 1975, apparently, I was writing short fiction about suicide.  Nice.  That short story was right next to my summer camp photo book and a picture book about Dachau.  Nice.  Late at night, on the last night of anything, things can get a little wonky.

My earliest memory is a view of arching trees on the windshield of the moving truck that took us to the house my mom was now leaving.  Those grand Dutch Elms had long ago fallen to disease.  I never much liked my childhood house, but I loved those trees, the scream of summer cicadas, the gold-green light dappled below the leafy tunnel and was heartbroken when the Village of Lincolnwood chain-sawed them all down.

I followed the grey and white cat through my childhood house.  It went to my childhood bedroom, empty but for paw-prints of furniture embedded in the carpet.  I followed the cat to my parents’ bedroom, the gold shag carpet sad, worn out.

I followed the cat and imagined that it was a spirit, gathering spirit and releasing ghosts, completing a long chapter that was now closing.  I followed the cat back out the front door and down the walk, myself walking out for the last time from my childhood house.  The cat lay on its back for a moment in the morning sun on a cold, clear Chicago December Friday, and then it sauntered off down the sidewalk, heading east, completing something for me, with me—free spirits.

I led the way at the wheel of my sister-in-law’s 4×4, heading east, with the moving truck behind me.  The re-grown trees arched in the windshield behind me.  We had pulled up from the west, all those years ago, and now we pulled away to the east.

Transition is hard, but my mom is happy in her new place.  And I’m happy for her.

Namaste, BD

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Denise December 14, 2011 at 5:43 am

This is so vivid. The emotion and the structure of you childhood, suburban home juxstapositioned against now. I wish you and your mother peace. (PS: I’m a chicagoan, too!)


rebecca @ December 14, 2011 at 6:48 am

50 years is a long time.
The cat. A talisman. I haven’t been here in a bit. This is a really nice piece of writing. The cat anchored me and allowed me to journey with you in a way that felt gentle. Nicely done.


Mark Brady December 14, 2011 at 7:10 am

Reminds me of the story about the child who loaded his aging father into a wheelbarrow and wheeled him to the edge of a cliff. Just before he dumped him over, the father pointed out what the son might expect in his own later years. Happily, you appear to have something sweet and poignant to look forward to, Bruce!


Kristen @ Motherese December 14, 2011 at 8:07 am

I would have liked the cat as a symbol in a short story; in a personal essay it’s simply breathtaking.

Love and peace to you and your mom and to all of us in our transitions.


Pamela December 14, 2011 at 8:09 am

Oh I know moving well, that bittersweet leaving and excitement of something new. Thank you for portraying this so beautifully. This June when we move again, I too will follow the cat. xoxo


Anonymous December 14, 2011 at 9:33 am

Hi Bruce. This made me cry, as it was just a couple years ago that I moved my mom out of her home of 55 years and walked through and then out of my childhood home for the last time. Those places that contained us and our experiences have such monumental presence. Funny how all of our stories are so much the same. Love to you and your family. Tiki


BigLittleWolf December 14, 2011 at 2:56 pm

The natural cycles of expansion and contraction, arriving and departing. We, in the middle, hope our middle will stretch out for as long as possible. Sometimes, we in the middle, know our endings and those of our parents too soon.

This is a gentle portrait of these cycles and their bittersweet quality.


barefootlisa December 15, 2011 at 4:47 am

Absolutely breath taking. Well told. I could “see” this…I was “there.” You also have me thinking about how my son, four and three fours as he likes to say, is remembering things and I wonder what will stand out for him in these early years of flickers of memories/scenes from his childhood — about this house, about us. I love, too, how you had the awareness/insight/eyes to see what this cat was doing, what it represented, and how you allowed this experience to dance you off to the east. Lovely.


Wolf Pascoe December 15, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Cats! They think they own the place!


TheKitchenWitch December 16, 2011 at 7:54 am

I love the way you choose to think of the cat as a gatherer of spirits. Transition is, indeed, hard and I wish your mom well.


Being Rudri December 18, 2011 at 8:53 pm

We just sold my childhood home this past year. Your words resonated deep with me. Sending much love and strength to your mom.


Stacy @ Sweet Sky January 20, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Hi Bruce,
Earlier today I stumbled on a comment you left on my site many months ago, and then I found you via Pamela, too.

Hello! I have enjoyed your stories very much… so vivid and rich with spirit, just the stories I need. Thank you for the work you do, and the words you write.

Many blessings,


Bruce January 20, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Hi Stacy, Welcome and thanks for the kind words—And All Good Wishes to you too, BD


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