Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 2/22/2008 [Archive]

A New Bedtime Story

A New Bedtime Story

By Martha Randolph Carr

Having a confirmed place to lay our head every night, whether we're actually there or not, is one of the basic hallmarks we use in this country to confirm that we're doing okay. It's a big part of why it's so hard to watch the news and all of the foreclosures across the country. Its implication is homelessness and no bed that belongs strictly to you is all that far away. But, due to unusually good circumstances, lately, I'm between residences. A strange kind of homelessness with perks. It has given me the opportunity to take a good look at what I think of myself based on nothing more than who I am without being able to add in a good feeling or two based on a prized object.

My 48th birthday recently passed and I am noticing that most of my peer group is busy buying bigger houses, nicer furniture -- really settling into their chosen lives.

On the other side of all of this, I was selling almost everything, giving away the rest and running off to New York City, my new home. I became an expert at where it's possible to buy, sell or look for anything. There are nuances to placing an ad on the web site -- morning is better and Wednesday works best of all -- that results in more serious buyers.

For weeks strangers showed up at my door, looked my possessions over, gave me cash and carted it away. Occasionally there was a shuffle of people going by each other on the stairs, especially for the Ab-Lounger and the old Lazy-boy. Who knew... The very nice man who bought the 185 Beanie Babies even called me later to thank me again. The man who bought the very large trash can of old action figures, mostly Ninja Turtles, stayed awhile to chat about his nephews, the intended recipients. The young girl from Capital One who bought a smattering of furniture told me about her life plans and just how she hoped to set up her new apartment. Her first residence away from home. The victor in the Ab-Lounger bidding lamented about how much exercise equipment he already had purchased, at the behest of his wife, which already was gathering dust. It's all been a very interesting glimpse into just how to put together a life no matter what part of it you happen to be in at the moment.

Disposing of everything I was using to define my life has, apparently, opened me up to the idea that anything is possible. It explains why I took in Nattie and Sean, two young twenty-something's from Boston who had only met each other on Saturday night at their big new job as salespeople before they found me on Sunday through my posting. Found me with a little bit of panic on their faces. They were staying in an older Days Inn with no place to go and a paycheck still thirty days away.

It dawned on me that I was heading out of town to see my son, Louie, in Chicago and then off to New York to see the apartment, and then off to the beach in North Carolina. I wouldn't actually be in residence for much of the month. Maybe I could let go and take a chance.

I split the rent three ways, paid up the bills, made two copies of the keys, pointed out the things that would break my heart just a little if they were not there when I got home -- and took off two days later. There was a moment or two in Chicago when I wondered how much would actually still be there when I got home. But then, I had this notion that no matter what, somehow I'd be fine.

While I was in New York, taking a test run with my new city, I took off for parts unknown every day and while learning to ride the subway I kept leaving messages for Louie to tell him what new place I had ventured into. 'Hello, Louie. This is Mom, I'm in Harlem walking up to 147th St.' He found all of it benignly amusing. Occasionally, I remembered the days of being the class mom and driving him to swim practice when I resembled everyone else in my set. Then I smiled and got back on the A train heading downtown toward Union Square to meet a new friend for coffee. Every moment of it was like being six again and wondering what's going to happen next. I fell into my borrowed bed every night, exhausted from the walking. A very patient friend who lives in New York never tired of answering my endless questions which consisted of, 'what's that' and 'where are we'.

The last week before I moved I sat on a beach somewhere in North Carolina with my good friend, Cindy, with a very nice bed before I moved on again and set up a new nest in New York. Very little resembles the life I used to have -- except the love of the people I've known that I took with me. Everything else is open to a new interpretation, which suddenly is working out just fine. More adventures to follow.

Martha Randolph Carr's new book, A Place to Call Home, is in bookstores everywhere. Author's email: For more info about Martha and her books go to

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