A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

My Koli

When my daughter was little, one of her nicknames was "Koli." That's Farsi for "gypsy"...what you call a screaming baby. Gypsies in Iran are not romanticized. They are considered wild and uncivilized, respecting no laws but their own.

Cordelia was spoiled rotten, and did not like to be left alone. Try to put her down to sleep and walk away, and you'd hear about it. I spent a lot of time waltzing her around the living room, bouncing her up and down, vacuuming or washing the floor with her on my back in her Snugli carrier, riding around and around the block in the car. When we lived in Paris and she cried, we'd hop on the Métro and ride it to the end of the line, then cross the track and ride home again. The movement would lull her to sleep eventually.

What goes around, comes around. I seem to have raised a daughter who can't stay in one place. Except now it's not just a baby on my back. It's a twenty-eight-year-old woman with a two-bedroom-apartment's-worth of furniture and a couple of cats. It takes a sixteen-foot Budget rental truck to get her from place to place--and she doesn't have a license to drive it by herself.

This week, Cordelia moved again. I foolishly assumed it would be an easy move: this time, we were going down the stairs. We were only going as far as the nearest storage unit. And her two strong and healthy brothers were available to help.

I didn't count on the weather. The day of the move was supposed to be a horrible thunderstorm, and Cordelia was adamant about not locking up everything in the storage unit soaking wet. The truck became available a half-day early, and she pleaded with me to use the good weather to advantage. I agreed--except that her brothers were not around that night.

We decided that only the couch was urgent. A few days remained till the end of the month, and Cordelia had the use of a minivan. We'd move the couch and as much else as we could in the big truck. The boys could always finish whatever we didn't later in the week, whenever they had the opportunity and it wasn't pouring out.

We took all the cushions off and unscrewed the legs. We used a big piece of plastic to slide the upended piece across the room. We calculated how to tip and turn it to get it out the door, around a corner to the immediate left, and down the stairway--a fairly complicated exercise in spatial relations. What we didn't remember to do was to turn it front-side-down before descending. When we got to the bottom, we realized it was just a bit too wide to make it through the doorjamb. And neither one of us was strong enough to be the person on the top, to lift it and flip it around while bending way over. So there it was, not only stuck but blocking the passage, preventing us from moving anything else.

Thank God for neighbors. Cordelia's was on his front porch, talking into his cellphone. A young, buff professor of German at Smith College. As soon as he was off the phone, Cordelia co-opted him. He cheerfully went around and up the back stairway, through the apartment and halfway down the front stairway, grabbed the couch, turned it, and got it out and into the truck. And then he was gone, calling over his shoulder as he went an offer of future assistance if we needed it.

But, after the couch, the rest was easy. The truck got filled, the truck got emptied, the truck went back from whence it came. The thunderstorm came and went. The brothers came and went. And today the landlord got the keys back, and ok'd the return of the security deposit. Cordelia and the cats are luxuriating in air-conditioned comfort with friends who serve fresh-squeezed orange juice for breakfast and seem to love company.

So it's all good--for now. The question is, when will she pull up stakes again, and where will she go? And for how long? I don't know the when, the where, or the how. Only that she seems destined to be a gypsy.