I”ll never forget that fateful day when my then 16-year-old son Stevie and his friend Sam rode with me to the City Dump in Salem, Oregon. I drove a 20-foot U-Haul truck which was probably the largest vehicle I’d driven my entire life — and I am blind in one eye, so it’s especially dangerous. We were going to use the truck to move all of our stuff from Oregon to California, back to the San Francisco Bay Area where I’d managed to land a job with a prestigious law firm as a “Document Specialist” in Palo Alto, CA. The entire area was now called “Silicon Valley.” I only knew it as the Peninsula, south of San Francisco where I grew up.
People had warned me not to attempt a move like that as a single mom with four kids, who were then 16, 14, 13 and four. But I didn’t listen to them. My mother had passed away earlier that year, 1997, the year I turned 40. It was time to move back to California where my Dad lived as well as my sister. In fact, Dad lived in Sunnyvale, California, close to the place I miraculously landed in Mountain View for $1,400 a month. More rent than I’d ever paid my entire life.
But I had to do it. I had to move back to California now that Mom was gone, and my boyfriend had passed away as well. Even my teenage daughter Melissa who always thought I made terrible decisions about everything understood.
I rented the truck early so we could get rid of all the garbage and junk which had accumulated in our large garage for 10 years. My mom, well-meaning friends, and my ex-boyfriend stored stuff in the garage saying they’ll come and get it, but they never did. Then there were boxes with nothing but papers and stuff which I’d kept for no particular reason. Maybe I was a semi-hoarder or something. It all had to go. The boys riding with me yelled when I put on the brakes on I-5 and they were hydraulic which freaked me out totally — I almost came to a complete stop. “Mom, we’re on the freeway!” Stevie yelled. “You can’t stop here!” He hung out to a handle above the front window for dear life while Sam’s mouth dropped open.
It was all I could do to drive that huge thing. I almost rammed into the ticket booth when I pulled up to the City Dump, the guy in the booth looked pretty shaken. He directed us to a spot where they weighed the truck and someone looked inside.
“Okay, that’ll be $100!” Oh my gosh, $100 to get rid of your junk? That’s highway robbery! We did have some old lamps and stuff that didn’t work anymore mixed in with boxes, and even a couple of pieces of old furniture which were completely worn out and ripped up, but still!
I managed to drive the truck to the edge of the cliff without going over it, thank heavens. It occurred to me that it would have been easier to back the truck in, however, there was no way I was going to attempt that. We’d have to open the back and carry the stuff to the cliff.
At first, it was fun. Stevie and Sam quickly rushed over to the back of the truck, grabbed a box or an old lamp and threw them over. I found another old lamp and threw it myself, and it felt sort of freeing and exhilarating like when I threw all of my exhusbnad’s stuff off the cliff at the City Dump in Lincoln City, Oregon over 10 years earlier. What is it about throwing stuff off a cliff that you don’t want that makes you feel good?
We were on a roll, and then it happened. Stevie grabbed a box with old newspaper on top. It definitely looked like garbage. I watched him toss the box over the cliff and suddenly as if in slow motion, red satin bows and giant Christmas balls and colorful ornaments flew from the box, and I heard the box crash at the bottom.
“Oh no! Mom’s heirloom Christmas ornaments!” I yelled. “Noooooo!” I ran over to the cliff and threw one leg over. I had to climb down and get those ornaments, but they were so far below us.
Steve ran over and grabbed me. “Mom, it’s no use. They’re gone. I’m so sorry.”
He helped me up and we hugged. Of course, it wasn’t his fault at all. We both hugged tightly, and I could feel his love and grief along with mine.
A piece of my heart went off the cliff with those Christmas ornaments that day.