Monty Python, that eminent group of British philosophers whose work was so influential in the late 20th century, reminded us in the film Monty Python’s Life of Brian to “Always look on the bright side of life.” This cheerfully profound bit of existential advice is, of course, closely related to the famous “Every cloud has a silver lining” and the immortal “April showers bring May flowers.” (I regret somewhat having remembered that last one—now I have Al Jolson’s voice stuck in my head.)
If you’re wondering why I’m torturing you with a chorus of clichés, it’s because I’m trying to make myself feel better. The youngest of my three children is about to leave home for good, and the prospect leaves me feeling a little sad (with occasional gusts to maudlin). I miss his brother and sister, and I’m going to miss him. The two of us have been a pair for a few years, and together we established a routine that I quite enjoyed.
Actually, he’s already left. A boatswain in the Royal Canadian Navy, he was posted to Halifax earlier this year—you know you’re getting on in years when your youngest son is a sailor with shoulders broader than your own—and I drove him to the airport a few weeks ago. Since then, he’s been busy settling in and finding himself an apartment. Now that he’s found one, it’s time for his stuff to follow him. In a few days, a truck will roll up to the house and a team of professionals will set about carting away everything he owns, and that will make the whole thing palpably final. His departure having been somewhat rushed, there’s a lot to get organized, and so I’ve been wandering from room to room identifying which bits and pieces will be going. It can be an emotional process, especially for someone famous among close relatives for tearing up at commercials for greeting cards, pet food, and processed cheese slices.
So, how will I avoid the temptation to gaze affectionately for a few thoughtful, memory-filled moments at every book before packing it? Well, I’ll probably do that anyway, at least at first, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to avoid becoming paralyzed by emotion if I remember to look on the bright side: I’ll be getting my basement back.
After years of serving as a backup family room, the basement gradually became the repository for anything that had to be kept but for which there was no room in the rest of the house. Before my daughter moved out, it slowly filled with furniture, pots, pans, sheets, towels, and everything else she’d eventually take with her. When she left, the space seemed to breathe a sigh of relief—until it began to fill up again. When the truck headed for Halifax drives away, it will be filled with, among other things, everything a well-dressed living room, bedroom, and kitchen could ask for. The basement will be empty (okay, more or less), and there will even be space freed up upstairs. I can spread out. And with my son’s books safely in Halifax, there’ll be that much more room for all my books—both the ones currently awaiting shelf space and those I don’t yet own. It’s a fairly bright bright side. I just won’t make the mistake I made when my daughter left: I won’t watch the truck drive off.