Sitting on my dining room table are several videotapes of my children when they were little, my sixth-grade autograph album, a baseball from the 1992 All-Star Game and a mini-version of Harold and the Purple Crayon. These are the last things that I took out of the house where I lived with my ex-wife and kids for almost 20 years.
I went over there the other day to help Caryn pack up and move to her new place. After what felt like forever, we were finally able to sell our Long Island home, allowing us to officially get on with the next part of our lives.
It’s strange how an empty house can overwhelm you with memories. We started up in the attic, boxing up old books, which is where I found Harold and the Purple Crayon. I flashed back to reading it with Rob and Zach, and still think I loved Harold more than they did (the simple half moon that followed him on every page always killed me). There were books about adoption, child rearing, marriage — the last remnants of all the homework that life had assigned us — and, to be honest, I’m not sure we ever got anything out of any of them.
“Remember this?” I asked Caryn, showing her a dog-earred copy of The Ghashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey. “I think I bought it for you right after our first date, along with that book of photos by Diane Arbus. Those were your clues, babe. You should’ve run for the hills right then and there!”
“Would’ve been so much easier,” Caryn said and smiled.
We then went into the bedroom because Caryn needed me and my tallness to take down a bunch of board games at the top of a closet. We were both big game players (I’ll let that allusion pass), and all of the boxes were thick with dust. The first thought that hit me was how I used to bug Caryn by taking forever to play a word in Scrabble. She always got her revenge with Boggle, where she’d routinely kick my ass. Scrabble and Boggle — cleverly making points with words — was one of the many storylines of our marriage.
There were boxes everywhere, filled with artifacts of our 30 years together. Photo evidence, from the summer we met at the Jersey Shore to hundreds of family snapshots, would be going to Caryn’s new house. A dozen or so videotapes (in 8mm format, shot with a Sony Handycam) of the kids' first birthdays, steps, words and all the other new parent thrills, came home with me so I could have them digitized. Neither one of us particularly wanted our Ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract, for obvious reasons.
After a few more hours of boxing shadows, I packed up the kid vids, Harold and a few other odds and ends in a small shopping bag, took one last look at the house and closed the front door.
Caryn drove me to the train station.
“Thanks for helping me today, babe,” she said as I got out of her car. “I really appreciate it!”
“You’re welcome,” I said.
Then I waved goodbye.