Two days later, on the 26th, the last trip of the year, up to Northern Virginia with Robin and her daughters. Unhappily, her marriage of four years had dissolved. Time to move forward, with resolve. My task was to help her move into a new apartment. In 2007, when Linda and I moved into our swell bungalow, I vowed that the next move would see me carried out horizontally. Well, not yet! Nope, time for a strong back and swift but sure foot. I was cranky when we pulled out of the driveway, but my attitude brightened on the way to the airport. Gear up, Rob.
We landed in a cold, pelting rain, and worried that it would still be wet the next day, when the movers would arrive. We got back to their old house, Brett took charge of Dylan and Carson, and Robin and I started loading boxes into her capacious (but soon to depart) Volvo SUV. We got quite a bit moved in late afternoon and early evening. Walking down the corridor of her new apartment building in Herndon (just three miles from the old place), it occurred to me that what she was doing was very brave. Even with emotional and financial support from Linda and me, taking that big step took courage. At dinner an hour later, I told her that. And before going to sleep, I thought of all the moms who say “Enough,” and against big odds choose a new way rather than the joyless status quo. But hold the stirring music: it’s still damned hard.
Wednesday dawned clear and windy. Streets were dry. Hooray. Carlos and Freddy, movers that Robin found on Craigslist, showed up with a big former U-Haul truck, and with backs that made me marvel (and smiles and banter that made me smile), got all the big stuff loaded up and moved into the new place. My guess was that at least one of them was in our republic illegally, and I was reminded of how so many people take their will for granted. We did not, do not, will not.
Meanwhile, Robin and I schlepped boxes and tubs of clothes, toys, dishes, the stuff of life. The gas man arrived to turn on the main for heat, hot water, and a warm stove. We started the task of making a home. Our daughter inherited our work ethic, and she swiftly brought order from chaos. Tony Carter, an affable technician for the telecoms provider Cox arrived to take charge of setting up phone, cable, and Internet. He ran into some troubles with the phone wiring, but he got it done (the next day I wrote his supervisor with a commendation). I liked him a great deal, in part because he touched me, I mean physically, and I responded. Touch is an interesting interaction with strangers. While Tony was wrangling with the wires, I was in a tiny closet trying to get the pilot lit inside the water heater (under Virginia or local law, the technician who visited earlier was not permitted to light it, and he failed to tell Robin that he closed the gas supply valve; aieeeeeeeeeeee).
We were dead tired by the time he left, close to eight, but I needed to pick up my backpack at the old place, which had my toothbrush and netbook and stuff. From there we headed to Reston Town Center and a plate of pasta and celebratory glass of vino at Vapiano. I was asleep before 9:30. Hard, into dreamland (I’ve been dreaming travel for more than four decades, so it wasn’t surprising that a travelogue ensued, that night riding the London Underground).
The original plan was to fly home at 9:50 Thursday morning. But my work was not done, and it was not right to bail, so I shifted my flight to nine hours later, pulled on jeans, and got back to work. Ate a bowl of cereal and connected the DVD player, a crucial task. We then did two more trips back to the old place; at the end of the second I hopped on my trusty Dahon Helios folding bike, rode to the new place, folded it into its case, and put it on the balcony. Nice!
Zipped out to Home Depot to buy Robin some tools and some other stuff. First, a detour to Best Buy, where your scribe enjoyed a nice T-t-S moment with a returns clerk. He asked for photo ID, saw the Texas driver’s license, and told me he had moved north from Houston. I replied with a comment about cold eather, but he said the biggest loss was the lack of Whataburger, a Texas fast-food institution. “Man, I miss those big cheeseburgers, some onion, mustard,” he said wistfully. I shook his hand and wished him a Happy New Year.
Zoomed back for lunch and an afternoon of mopping up, mostly hanging pictures on walls – the tried and true way to create a sense of home. Most of what I put up were pictures of the girls that Robin so dearly loves, and that made me smile.
As we say in Texas, we got ‘er done, so Robin drove me to Dulles Airport at 5:30. I had not seen the main terminal building at night for years, and the scene was stunning. I hugged and kissed Robin, then ambled west a few hundred yards to capture the grace of Finnish-American Eero Saarinen’s 1962 design. “Soaring” is a word often used to describe it, and indeed it lifted my spirits heavenward. Flew home, done.