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It's Nelly's World

Swing Setpiece

alec vanderboom

Whee! I am suddenly flying down the sliding board of life, and its surface is awfully slick. (Remember those hot metal boards of your youth--the ones they now declare too dangerous, but were merely exciting, especially as they burned your legs in summer, or caught your shorts on a rusting bolt, or got polished by the evil kids so you'd go frighteningly fast?)

Only now, I view myself in this passage, thanks to those journals discovered in the literal and figurative attic last week, as not so much pushed by someone else as I was propelled by myself. Yes, I received the assist of an unexpected push. But I climbed the ladder.

My child sleeps upstairs, in his last night ever in this house. (Yesterday, I was given a copy of a chapter from a book on how to mitigate the effects of divorce on children, and one of the first things it advised was to try to keep things the same for the child: house, neighborhood, environment. Alas, my winnings from the lottery will be arriving too late for this.) He cannot really comprehend it yet: the other day he was spinning an elaborate scheme for the New Year's party he wanted to have here, complete with fire in the fire circle by the barn, and torches given to all the children (yeah, right!) so they can run around in the field out back. "But, honey, remember? We won't be living here then." Silence.

As the movers carried boxes and furniture for four hours today, Nelly lay on a pile of my clothes at the foot of the bed, looking at me wonderingly every time I came into the room. What is happening? she says with her eyes, which look a little scared, a little bemused. Like my son, she won't really comprehend until we're there. Come to think of it, neither will I. Some things are too big to grasp in advance.

I am now coming to the end of a process that is simply the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Physically. Emotionally. The screeching sound of packing tape pulled off its roll is embedded permanently in my ear. I have lost two entire months of my life to the efforts to sell, stage, show, clean, pack this old house, and look for a new one. I am dying to stop. (Especially glad to have over the part where I crawled around on my knees picking up stray hairs by hand from the white tile of the bathroom before a showing.) I am dying to get back to work. To have a new life, with myriad possibilities, begin. To start training Nelly again, instead of this sloppiness of using the word "yes" as a reward marker because I am too exhausted to find the clicker and do things right. She deserves this, because she is showing her inordinate talent as a circus dog more and more. She is a little monkey, launching herself into the air, into and out of cars, into and out of laps. The other day she tried to jump up into the back of Janet's car, with the tailgate up; it is over four feet high. And offered nothing to land on. She flipped backward into the air, like that squirrel she caught once off the siding of the woodshed, and she landed on the dirt with a hurt look in her eyes. I need to get this trapeze stuff on cue, but quick, before she really hurts herself.

Now, late at night, after packing nonstop (I represent the problem with America in perfect miniature: too goddamn much crap; we should just stop all manufacturing right now, and we can just Freecycle everything around to one another), I need some mindless entertainment. I will go read the newspaper in bed. Maybe it won't be such bad news after all.