On January 3, 2022, I am moving out of my apartment and starting my long drive from Spokane, WA to Carrboro, NC (via Los Angeles). I purchased a cargo van specifically for this move, and in order to get all my things in it I need to downsize a bit. My virtual garage sale has been unexpectedly successful at lightening my load, and the money I’ve made from it will (hopefully) cover the gas for the road trip. So far a win-win.
On my virtual sale page, there’s more than just an item and an asking price. I’ve also included descriptions that include provenance (real or imagined), history (true or made up), associated memories, and maybe even a spotlight on (and questioning of) the current market value. A surprising outcome of these little written ‘eulogies,’ as I’ve been calling them, is a total and complete letting go of the thing. Taking the time to mindfully pay tribute to each material item has served to not only sell a bunch of stuff, but it’s also granted me closure. So much so that when the sale is over, I’ll deliver the leftovers to the goodwill without a second thought. All the previously loaded sentimentality long gone thanks to a few written lines.
For me, it’s the memories attached to a thing that makes it so hard to part with. Take, for example, that hammock my ex thoughtfully gave me as a birthday gift eight years ago. Though I’ve never used it, I haven’t gotten rid of it because it reminds me of her true heart. It calls to mind the good times I never want to forget.
Inert things are often infused with a magnetic and inordinate power making it super hard to relinquish.
As I wrote these eulogies, I gave the item my full attention. This focus has been all I’ve needed to finally leave it behind.
There is one item, however, that I’ve been dancing around. Maybe because it’s tucked away in my laundry room—out of sight, out of mind. Maybe, too, because it’s the sort of item that I literally can’t get rid of. Like an appendage. Or one that doesn’t make good sense to get rid of, like prescription glasses. Or maybe this item is akin to a pet, or a child, or a grandparent, and, as such, is simply not allowed to be on a list of give-aways.
This item, in the eyes of most, is a basic, double-wide baby jogger. A Thule Chariot Cougar 2, to be exact.
These days, from afar it looks to be in good shape. But up close it’s easy to see that it has lost its structural integrity. Sun-damaged everything, rickety framework, wonky and wobbly wheels. It certainly isn’t the sort of thing you’d want to lug your precious cargo around in—which is exactly what I did with it for nearly 3000 miles across the United States in 2018.
To me, this baby jogger was only one in name. This jogger was my saving grace. It got the heft of an overfilled pack off my back. It took the load off my aching feet. And it allowed me to carry all the water and snacks and gear I wanted as I walked from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Such a joy!
Little Buddy, as I named this four-wheel lifesaver, was the sort of gear I initially eschewed. It made the walk too easy, I thought. I stubbornly adhered to such false assumptions until my body could no longer take a step. When LB came on the scene, I was rescued. I was reminded that I wasn’t, in fact, as unbreakable as I thought. LB was integral to me fully understanding that the journey required humility more than it did brute strength.
Little Buddy’s maiden voyage took me across the California border. He (yes, this material thing became a pronoun) then led me across every border thereafter. Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. He caught the eye of many a passerby. Blame it on his signage—WALK USA across his front window panel, NO BABY on the traffic facing side—or blame it on the strange combination of him attached to a neon-clad middle-aged man on the roadside. Whatever the case, LB’s presence inspired countless interactions with strangers whose kindness became the theme of the transcon.
Together LB and I walked for 160 days. And on the eve of the finish, hours after he stirred up a flurry of attention in Times Square, I disassembled him and stacked his parts in a friend’s Harlem hallway. The next day I walked to the Atlantic without him and felt utterly naked.
Since July 2018, LB has been in storage. Collapsed in a bike box with his various components: Spare Kevlar tires, extra tubes, a patch kit, an air pump, and various other accoutrements to keep him rolling along.
I briefly unpacked and lugged him anticlimactically to an Austin conference where I delivered a presentation on my walk. Brought him also to my first bookstore reading of the walk’s resulting book. In both cases, it was like trying to recapture something that only exists in memory. And frankly, wheeling him around all empty and weightless for a short spell, only to break him down and repack him shortly afterwards was saddening. It made my heart hurt a bit.
I’m writing this extended eulogy before I officially let Little Buddy go. And even though I’m writing it while sitting in a public cafe, I’m getting all teary-eyed. Not sure what LB’s next iteration will be, but damn sure anything is better than being stuffed in a box hidden in a dusty corner my laundry room.
Maybe letting go is precisely what’s needed to renew a life? I sure do hope so. For both of us.
So farewell Little Buddy. Farewell, old and good and reliable friend. I will never forget you—you’ll always shine the brightest in my rich and dreamy memories.
We did an amazing thing. We did it together.
I am grateful.