I wrote a blog about moving my youngest daughter to Montreal, a very short time ago. But maybe I was sleeping under a tree like Rumpelstiltskin because it appears that four years have gone by since I left her standing on the corner of St. Catherines and Rue Guy in front of Concordia University.
During that time she spend two years in one teeny studio apartment on De Maisonneuve Boulevard, did a year’s exchange at foggy San Francisco State University discovering that American’s are not, as she naively thought, very similar to Canadians, and a fourth year in an even smaller, though considerably newer apartment on Cote de Neiges looking far across at the Pont Champlain Bridge. Along with her studies she did two internships at popular youth culture magazines (the shamefully popular completely unpaid for internship).
I flew to Montreal with the whispers of approaching summer to help my daughter pack up and return to the west. Waking up in her studio on Cote de Neiges, with the sun deceptively warming the apartment through the window, I contemplated the basics of setting up and dismantling the belongings to support a happy, satisfied life. This subject is so much on my mind these days because of my own efforts at (here’s that tired old word again) – ‘decluttering’, as well as my exertions to help my parents rid themselves of some of what my mom feels would lighten her load. It had been a cool, even cold last bit of April, while we closed off this part of the life my daughter had in Quebec – during which she obtained her degree and blossomed from an eighteen-year-old girl, who I warned about street dangers and trusting strangers, to a twenty-two-year-old woman, who warned me as she left to say goodbye to friends, that she would return late and to just lock the door behind her.
I took careful notes when we first set up Lilly’s apartment, arriving on a red-eye flight from Calgary and driving a rental car directly to the Ikea in the suburbs. There we purchased the twelve dollar lamp and twenty-nine dollar desk, and the one hundred and twenty-nine dollar bed frame, along with two equally cheap stools to sit at the tiny counter in the galley kitchen-ish area, and one TV type table if she chose to eat on the half- a- couch and ottoman we found at Sears, while she watched a downloaded show on her computer (students don’t have TVs or land lines anymore.) And every summer and Christmas break we warned Lily about bringing too much back to Montreal from home, but still she accumulated a series of heavy coats trying to deal with the Quebec cold, the gift of the rice cooker, half a dozen pairs of stylish but hopefully warm enough boots, a tray of candles for the ambiance of warmth, two fans for the oppressive heat in the beginning and sometimes end of the term, a small library of books from her classes, portfolios full of edgy photographs from her Fine Art photography degree, as well of course, the cameras and equipment she didn’t start out with.
We had already packed and delivered to Greyhound Express three large plastic containers of the heavy items – books and boots and some dishes she was fond of, as well as her record player and records. Did I mention she had convinced us to purchase an actual record player here as a birthday gift and I could never dissuade her from adding to her load of Montreal possessions by carting Led Zeplin, Fleetwood Mac and Three Dog Night records from our basement collection every trip she took home to Alberta. Her posters, and collection of necklaces hanging on pin and LED flashing Virgin Mary light had been taken from the walls, we’d burned the candles down, the stools and little table and one chair sold on Craigslist, two book stands given away to an apartment neighbor, friends had come to claim some of the most intriguing prints, along with the most utilitarian warm clothes Lily was ready to part with, and her lonely cactus and one scraggly hanging plant. The guy she found to sublet for the remaining of the lease, got a steal of a deal on her bed and mattress and will never understand how she will miss her little half-a-couch. Lily directed me to leave him the never used cake pans and muffin tins, saying, “See Mom, I told you four years ago I wasn’t going to become a baker.” True, in four years she became a accomplished rice cooker, but never a baker. Today we will eat out – having done a far better job of diminishing the contents of her refrigerator than the contents of her apartment that we will still have to show up with at the airline counter tomorrow. I’ve explained my strategy to Lily’s dad over the phone. Flying West-jet, each of our first enormous suitcases is complimentary, the second they will charge us twenty dollars for. Of course, then we will still have purses cleverly tucked into overstuffed backpacks, and carry on computer cases, probably with the last used towels falling out of them, along with a tube of rolled up prints and a flat package of the prints too precious to release to a week of travel on the Greyhound.
And if this is what she has lived with comfortably enough for four years what is it that I have filled my home with over a quarter of a decade? What are the precious goods, the necessary tools, the carriers of memory, and even the flotsam and jetsam, that surrounds me that couldn’t be sold to a few anxious buyers on Craigslist, tossed off to neighbors, packed into three small boxes on Greyhound and carried on a flight?
Preparing to call the last Montreal taxi driver that I would converse with in a long while, I realized that as minimalist as we’d been, we still had a fair load for flying purposes. So, I decided, we must work at giving the appearance of lightness, of effortlessness – at that airline counter where they weigh things up. “Here we are, it is just her and me, and a few bags, nothing to get worried about, or charge us ridiculous amounts of money to bring. It is just us,” my attitude will say,” see – we are ethereal. We are light – so just us and a good part of the accumulations of a life of four years of growing up. That’s all. Just that.”