We rumble over green and copper tracks. Ivy creeps higher along the rails supporting the “L". Grinding to a stop in the Sedgwick station, the doors open to the percussive screech of a jackhammer on the street below. My son has recently discovered excavators and dump trucks and other manner of big, wheeled things. Today, we pass several on our way to Story Time at Lincoln Park Zoo. June and July in Chicago are as rife with construction as with festivals: Ravenswood Art Walk, Chicago Food + Wine, Ribfest, Hot Dog Fest, and more. Chicagoans love summer despite the onslaught of hard hats and neon vests.
Just inside the Farm at the Zoo, kids and caregivers cluster together on blankets. Nestled around them, empty strollers fan out like sunbeams. The low, hum of an electric guitar and a kazoo drift from the center, sliding into a rendition of "Old McDonald" followed by "You Are My Sunshine."
The air is warm, the nanny next to me is friendly, but tell myself I should be packing. The persistent planner in my head drums her fingers, making it difficult to simply savor the music and my toddler's enthusiasm for cows. With one mental foot out the door of our apartment, this whole period feels heavy with transition—the uneasy restlessness of waiting to board a plane or for the light to change to green.
After absorbing our share of sun, goats, and giraffes, we make our way back home, where a low wall of cardboard boxes continues to rise around my dining room. It finally looks like we're moving. We've transitioned completely from a theoretical move into the tangible world of packing tape. A few days ago, a craigslister walked out of our place with half of our living room. He was young, a recent graduate who, his arms quivering with the weight of half a bookcase, bellowed about how he'd soon be making enough money that he'd never have to move his own things again. He'd already told me he had been a journalism major. I smiled for us both. I remember those days. I remember those moves, my muscles once so sore after heaving my own craigslist collection up three flights of Harlem stairs that I couldn't get back down them except by sliding. It feels good to do your own work, until it doesn't.
Now it's my turn to sell, to take what had become clutter and manifest adulthood and send it into the ether for other whippersnappers to furnish sublets and thrive on. As my chocolate brown Jennifer Convertibles couch—an old NYC purchase—tottered through my kitchen, I thought of the many things I still had to purge. I had decided, for example, to finally part with my writing desk; I'd buy a new one when we settled down again. When I was still in Queens, I had splurged on the West Elm jay desk before I really understood how writing would become my life. It endured moves from Astoria to SoHo to Harlem to Chicago. It endured awful writing from the reflections of my first poetry festival in 2006 to my grad school application drafts in 2010 to workshop summaries through 2013. The roll-out wheels wobble. The espresso finish has chipped—a lot. And when I pull out the lower desk, it gives a tremulous squeal that WD40 hasn't been able to soothe. After all, how many more moves would this desk endure?
The back of the couch has slipped away into the night, the back doorway was empty. I stared past the foggy glow of the porch light for a suspended moment, imagining my desk also vanishing into the blackness.
And I couldn't do it.
The desk will stay. It will stay as a guest room desk, a school desk for my son, a spare moments desk for the days I need to abandon my glossy new oak or pine or maple monument for a snap of inspiration or humility. There are things that take up space in my home that don't jar the depths of my abdomen the way that desk does. And they can go. So much of what this whole experiment or adventure represents is a honing of what my husband and I value. And I value the journey that that desk and I are still taking.