Today I pre-sign away my dream home, 13 years to the day I learned it was to be mine. I suppose it's fitting that my attention span so often runs to that baker's dozen of years, the same number I operated the Old Waverly History Exchange & Tea Room and the amount of time I maintained an all-but-shaved head. Misunderstood and feared by many, the number 13 is instead regarded by numerologists as a number of re-birth, a theme I'm choosing to embrace as I move to a much more stripped-down existence.
I can't take the original mirrors and medallions or piece-parts of my magnificent kitchen (and where would I put such things in the glorified closet to which I am moving?); my only keepsakes will be my memories, mostly of things impossible to photograph: early morning impatient stares into the vestibule, willing the arrival of the Baltimore Sun and New York Times; the fragrance that quickly floats to the third floor whenever something citrus is peeled two floors below; the sound of Oregon Ridge fireworks 20-some miles north, heard through the skylights when the wind is just right; the beautiful colours I saw and the endless joy I felt heading Grandma's table full of happy friends laughing their way through my legendary feasts.
Despite being less-than-photogenic and way more comfortable behind the camera, I nonetheless wanted a portrait of me in my milieu - my beloved kitchen, garden and carriage house, the most important parts of the house, the places built from scratch - so I asked my friend and (so lucky for me) past colleague, retired Baltimore Sun photographer extraordinaire (mentioned in the same breath as Aubrey Bodine in the Sun's recent 175th anniversary publication), Jed Kirschbaum, to do me the honor, never thinking he would say yes. But Jed quickly did say yes, though he would need to retrieve his long-ago lent-out camera. Wow. Me without this kitchen and garden and Jed without his camera - and the world still turns. Well, check back with me on that next week, but I found an enormous reserve of courage in of what he so easily let go.
Yesterday, my big black Hobart was carted off for safekeeping and because the kitchen was conceived as a complete package, suddenly my sanctuary was no more. Today the yellowware bowl collection comes down, and while the handcrafted cabinets below will still stop traffic, they're not really mine anymore. Same with my huge oven after the last loaves emerged. My grandma's dining room set departs tomorrow for a well-deserved restoration; its leaving will all but drain away the ruach (spirit) of this house.
Most of my roses saluted me last week with a third flush, though I hope they remain quiet the next few days, as saying goodbye to my 31st Street garden in full flower nearly did me in. This time around, I leave not only roses, but boxwood-rimmed parteres exploding with herbs and vegetables - in contrast to my new home, with but a tiny (really really tiny) balcony to farm. But weeks ago, I planted two Madame Isaac Pereire roses (my forever favourite) in lattice-patterned urns and so far the bushes thrive in their Inner Harbor perch, soon to be joined by a jumble of potted herbs.
Everything else, oh my, so much else in my magnificent house and garden and neighborhood of a lifetime, can only remain in my heart. But this drastic sizing-down has taught me that I need not necessarily possess something to actually have it, or hold something in my hands to have it firmly in my heart.