Moving is exhausting, especially when you’re older, as I am now.
You have more tangible things to carry as you age—more crap, more junk, more history—and more intangible things, too.
I’m in the habit of getting rid of things now, instead of moving them. “Junking” is an exhilarating, soul-cleansing exercise. I put something in the dumpster and I think, That’s gone from my life now. Gone forever! Why the hell did I carry that around for all those years? What a damn fool I am!
But, like a soldier who loses a limb in battle, even when I throw things out or sell them on Craigslist, the ghosts of those things haunt me for awhile. I feel a tingle where the junked items used to be.
This morning, with 98-percent of my life in boxes, I found a magnet on my refrigerator—a magnet that I’d somehow been looking at without seeing for years.
It has the words of a Susan Polis Schutz poem written on it. Do you know Susan Polis Schutz? You might not know her consciously, but trust me, you know her words. The same way scientists claim that there is a spider within three feet of us at all times, a Susan Polis Schutz poem is within three feet of you—yes, you—at this very moment.
Schutz is a successful, ubiquitous greeting card-caliber poet. She does not skimp on the sentiment. She’s built a career out of saying the obvious.
My mother sent me the magnet.
Schutz’s poem on the magnet is titled TO MY AMAZING SON. It goes like this:
TO MY AMAZING SON
To see you happy
is what I always wished for you
Today I thought about your handsome face
and felt your excitement for life
and your genuine happiness
and I, as your mother burst with pride
as I realized that my dreams for you have come true
What an extraordinary person you have become
In the background is a body of water, an open sky at dawn, a couple of brown mountains. I popped the magnet off the refrigerator. The magnet itself was disappointingly weak, barely strong enough to hold it in place on the metal door.
I thought about my mother. She’s almost 70 now. Lives in Florida in a tiny apartment. I considered the sentiment on display. How bland, I thought. How completely anonymous, I thought. I felt the weight of the weak magnet in my hands. I looked at the brown mountains, the open sky at dawn. I tried to figure out what to do with this damn thing.