About six years ago, my husband and I moved halfway across the country, from New England to Bozeman, Montana. We had no connections there. We weren’t moving because work required it. We moved there because we visited and we fell in love with the place.
We got rid of a lot of stuff and put the rest in boxes, as you do. When we first arrived in our new apartment, we bought a couple of things so that we could perform Basic Life Functions while working to unpack. These things included a pair of mugs.
I loved those mugs. They were black, with a pretty gold-brown vine and leaf design on one side. Honestly, they were nothing particularly special in the grand scheme of things, but I loved them because the were big, so I could go a good while before refilling, and the bottoms were stable, so they never tipped over. They were my favorite mugs, and I always smiled at the recollection that they helped welcome us to Bozeman.
Fast forward six years. We got married in Bozeman. We found incredible health care support and did a lot of healing in Bozeman. We had our daughter in Bozeman. We, against all odds, shut-ins that we are, made some wonderful friends in Bozeman. We even had found a restaurant that serves the best sushi we’ve had everywhere, in freaking landlocked Bozeman. But it was time to pack it up and be close to family. We agonized. We cried. It was a hard decision, because it was a decision between two amazing things. I feel blessed and grateful to have been burdened with such a choice.
In the last two weeks before the move, I broke one of the mugs. In some impossible twist of how-on-earth-did-the-physics-work-there, it practically leaped out of my hand while I was washing it and hit the bottom of the sink just so. I decided it was a sign. I put the pieces of the handle inside the cup, stuck it on a windowsill, and asked my husband to make sure that it was the last thing we threw away, because I am a weirdo.
Fast forward again. We’ve been dealing with all the monumental emotional strain of uprooting life, finding new vendors and health care and restaurants and trying to remember where the hell we packed our socks. (Answer: with the toolbox and last remaining holdout VHS tapes, obviously.) And the adjustment of our baby girl going to daycare. Insanity. Stress like I don’t remember ever having dealt with before.
Yesterday, I heard a crash from the kitchen. “You okay?” I asked, as I do.
“Yeah… I broke a mug,” said husband.
“Oh,” I said. “That’s okay.”
He poked his head around the corner and held up the surviving black and gold-vine mug. “This one,” he said.
I blinked at it and decided I couldn’t possibly have an opinion about it right then. “Okay,” I said, and went back to surreptitiously feeding our child dinner while she was too distracted by More Important Things (read: Muppets) to object.
This morning I woke up and thought about it again. I realized that I had been treating those mugs as symbolic of a beautiful chapter of our lives, and wondered if I was about to start bawling because it was such a clear, stark reminder that it was over. But then it hit me that I wasn’t upset about it at all. I felt relieved, and free.
These physical tokens, these material reminders, are never up to the task of containing our experiences long term. The treasures of our lives are far too big and important for that. The experiences we had while living in Bozeman are a part of my heart and soul forever, and in that, I will never truly leave.