The call came from Marie one morning: “I need your help,” she said. “I have no memory of how to do this. I have no idea how people move from one place to another.”
The decision that had begun with a gentle hand against a baby elephant’s trunk in far-off Asia had been made. John would remain in Boston to finish school, and Marie would return to Chicago. She would move into the top two rooms on the uppermost floor of Madeline’s house, and she would await the gathering storm.
Billie Rae, Marie’s mother, and Sienna, her baby sister, made it abundantly clear that this was thoroughly unnecessary, confounding, and furthermore, insulting. They steadfastly maintained that they had full control of the situation at hand.
Unwanted in the new life ahead, and leaving her old life behind, she would await the gathering storm.
Madeline knew the low rumble of the U-Haul when it pulled up in front of the house, though her back was turned to the windows facing the street. She considered how many times she had helped her children move in, or out, since each of them had first left home. She was pretty sure the number was somewhere around 623 times, or so it certainly seemed to her. Still, she rued that her advancing years allowed her to do less and less; her legs now wobbled by the third flight of stairs, and she needed to put boxes down to rest for a moment all too often.
It had been decided that Marie would bring the majority of her and John’s possessions back with her, leaving him with a skeletal assortment of bare necessities as he focused on the grueling home stretch of his school. Still, Madeline was quite taken aback when Marie swung the U-Haul cargo doors open to reveal a van that was crammed completely full, every possible square inch consumed in what amounted to a breathtaking feat of engineering.
Reading Madeline’s thoughts on her face, Marie remarked, “Yeah. We had to pack it and re-pack it a few times.”
Marie had also brought their dog. Everyone had marveled since the first day Marie chose the impossibly tiny sleek brown puppy that she had managed to find the exact canine equivalent of herself, for Proust was relentlessly demanding, deeply affectionate, possessed of strong and generally instantly-formed impressions of all people and things in his path, somewhat unpredictable, and generally in-your-face with his intense and abiding love.