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.