Have Ritual, Will Travel

Moving in–notice the brand new ring on my finger.

Well, it’s the End Times. Which explains why I’m having so many revelations lately.

Maybe that’s a little dramatic. I’m fairly confident it’s not the end of the world. But it is the end of our time in Miami. See, on Monday we move back to New York, after three years in Miami Beach. And while my husband and I are thrilled to be moving back to the city where we met and where many of our friends live, and our daughter is looking forward to becoming a character in one of her favorite children’s books, Hello, New York City!, I have to admit that I’m so overwhelmed I feel like my head is about to spin off my neck and whirl off into the distance.

There’s so much to do, and so much left uncertain; we still need to find a permanent place to live in the city; get to know, and, I hope, love the nanny; choose a health insurance plan, among other tasks, each of which seems vast. Moving is the mother of all liminal stages. Which is why I’m so shocked that, as far as I can tell, there’s not a moving ritual in place to mark it. I keep trying to rig up rituals, to visit the places we know and love in the city, to have one last sunset happy hour, one final sail on the catamaran, but nothing is really saying to me “That’s it. You’ve done it. Move on to the next phase.”

Which brings me to my first revelation: There’s a hole in the ritual market. Folklorists, social scientists, Hallmark, please step in! This is a call to action! We need a moving ritual that will observe the end of one life stage and honor the place you used to call home and celebrate the beginning of another. Not a party like a wedding; it’s too much work to throw a party on top of all the packing, and when other people throw it for you, as our friends did on Sunday, you just feel sad you won’t see everyone again for a while, and you keep making one last plan with everyone. But something to commemorate what once was and to look forward to what will be. The only thing I’ve been able to come up with is posting pictures of the things I’ll miss about Miami on my Facebook page. And there are so many things I’ll miss–the whimsical public art, my Starbucks’ husbands, my favorite bookstore, even the washer dryer in my kitchen (a luxury I won’t have in New York). But my Mooning Over Miami photos aren’t quite cutting it, they’re just making me miss the city already. Maybe you’ve got a suggestion of a ritual, dear reader? If so, please share it!

Wildly pregnant, with my rather alarmed sister, Marina.

Speaking of missing Miami, here’s my second revelation: you can parse nostalgia. Greeks are experts in nostalgia; the ancients invented the word nostos (meaning coming home after a long journey), which is the root of nostalgia (a longing for home), and roughly 86 percent of our folk songs lament the pain of dying in a foreign land (OK, I made up the statistic, but the sentiment is true). But I haven’t come across a satisfying classification of types of nostalgia. And, as I’ve been awash in it over the past few weeks, I’ve identified three distinct variations.

The first is nostalgia for what an iconic place once was, itself–it’s what knocks you over when you stand at the Acropolis or walk down a street in Paris that looks just like you imagined it would while reading A Moveable Feast or are charmed by a decorated downtown street that looks like a scene out of Miracle on 34th Street. The second is nostalgia for what a place could be or could mean to you–when you’re in a new city and you imagine what it would be like if you lived here, or you’re wine tasting or visiting a pumpkin patch and you think, what if I quit my job, moved here, started farming and had this amazing view every day?  The third kind is the most narcissistic type of nostalgia, but also the most powerful: the longing for who you were in a given place. It’s what has been torturing me lately. When my future husband and I first moved to Miami we were engaged, planning our wedding, and starting a new phase in our lives. I took pictures of every dinner I cooked and emailed them to my mother, the novelty of cooking a real meal and serving it on our registry china was so enchanting. (The photographing, if not the cooking, fell away long ago.)

Burying Amalia’s umbilical cord–that, there’s a ritual for!

Miami is where we set up our first home together, where we lived as newlyweds, and Emilio was sitting in the IKEA chair in our living room when I told him I thought we were pregnant and he burst out laughing. It’s where I had a long, hot, swollen, but delightful pregnancy. We brought Amalia home from the hospital to this apartment. Miami is where the two of us became the three of us. As we leave, I’m pre-emptively mourning the loss of the city, of the movies in the park opposite the New World Symphony Center, and Amalia playing with her sand toys on South Beach and climbing up the slide in Maurice Gibb Park (how can you not love a city that names a public parks after a Bee Gee?). But I’m also mourning the end of this first phase of our family.

I know this move is a good change and I hope and pray that we have much more happiness to look forward to. I just wish I had a ritual to help convince myself of that fact, and to make me feel like I had done what I could to steer fate in our favor.

As for Miami, I know we’ll be back to visit often. How could we not? Amalia’s umbilical cord is buried in our courtyard.

Amalia, snacking this afternoon.

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