At 8, I moved for the first time. I gave my friend a Matchbox car. He gave me a Hotwheels car. I can’t remember if we hugged before I climbed into our station wagon. I buried the Matchbox car in the backyard of our new house.
At 20, I left my father, mother, and brother in the airport and I got on a plane to fly across the country, to a new home. As soon as the plane took off, I became a full-fledged adult. My mom packed me a lunch and two pieces of pound cake wrapped in plastic. My dad gave me dating advice.
At 26, I left on a plane and told D I’d be back. Months later, I called him and told him I wasn’t coming home, that we were done. Sixteen years later, he mailed me some photos he still had. One is my high school class picture; the other is of that day I left to fly across the country.
At 37, I ran out of M’s house, screen door slamming behind me, never to return. For Valentine’s Day, she’d given me a bracelet that says “love me, love my dog.” I wear it occasionally as a reminder of the way I need and deserve to be loved.
Three months later, I got out of R’s car and watched her drive away, never to return. Before she drove away, I returned her house key, only to learn later that it wasn’t hers. I carried her key on my keychain for a year, thinking one day I’d perform a small ritual and throw it into the Sound. Instead I threw it away in a garbage can outside the Home Depot.
I never planned on not seeing any of them. I loved them all, in different ways, and I had imagined a life with them. In romance or friendship, I imagined our forever. After I left, though, I made no real efforts to get any of them back in my life.
I think of all of them often, some more than others and some with more fondness than others. I wonder where they are and what they’re doing, and I wonder if they think of me. I would never choose to not have had them in my life. But, knowing where they are now and where I am now, these goodbyes have been not only necessary, but small blessings. I walked away and moved along a newly forged path.