While my fantasy of leaving Texas was filled with elation, my parting moments were filled with tears and hysterics. I arrived on a steamy Wednesday evening. Nearly to the day, five years earlier, I had initially flown to the Austin Bergstom Airport to see Austin for the first time and sign papers to purchase our Round Rock, Texas house.

On that day, I gallantly skipped down the concourse to Rich’s eager arms. This time, I reluctantly wandered outside into the heat then called Rich who was parked near the airport, waiting for my call.

While we’d been separated for six-weeks, Rich was fatigued from weeks of fixing last minute things at the house, packing, and getting everything ready for our trip. Picking me up was simply another “to do” on his long list.

The next morning, we got up at 4:30 a.m., anxious to get started. Even at that early hour, my glasses steamed up as I walked outside into the thick, grayish humidity.

We’d decided in advance to have one last early morning breakfast at the iHOP down the street from our house. Every month or two, usually on a Friday morning, we’d go to iHOP for a decadent breakfast of runny eggs, hash browns, pancakes or toast.

Our breakfast seemed the last sane moment of that stressful day. The moving truck didn’t arrive until after 11 a.m. By the time, they parked and got settled, it was nearly noon. By then, the humidity was oppressive.

For the next eight hours, three men labored on-and-off at packing up our remaining furniture, boxes, building materials from our garage. They were horrifically inefficiently, working for a half an hour, resting for 15 minutes. Plus, they’d take a few things out of room so I had to wait until late in the afternoon to clean much of the house.

By 7 p.m., I was close to tears with exhaustion, frustration, and the oppressive heat. The air conditioner struggled to keep the house cool with the doors propped open.

When they finally left, Rich and I scrambled to do the final cleaning then tossed our grimy clothes in bag and hopped in the hot tub for the last time. We each downed a small bottle of Blackthorn Cider, which we’d served at our wedding and traditionally drink on special occasions.

Thoroughly snookered, I gathered up my suitcase and jumped in Rich’s truck. We drove to the Red Roof Inn down the street then hobbled to Chuy’s for one last Mexican meal. I don’t remember what I ate, but it was too much, too late at night.

After a fitful night, we drove back to the house, one last time, to gather up the cats, birds, cleaning supplies, and last bit of food in the refrigerator and freezer.

Rich hadn’t measured the bird cage and after bringing it outside, realized that it didn’t fit in the back of the truck. I struggled to clean up the back bedroom where we kept the birds and cats, using a worn out mop to slop up kitty litter, bird poop, and dust and dirt that had gathered under several large rubber mats that had been kept under the bird cages and kitty litter boxes. Meanwhile, the cats were running through the house and leaving dirty footprints where I was mopping.

And I couldn’t cram everything from the refrigerator and freezer into our two ice chest. It was heartbreaking to chuck perfectly good food in the over-flowing trashcan at the curb.

Hysterics ensued. I agonized not only over our present situation, but the realization that I was leaving a fabulous house where everything fit perfectly and looked so pretty. I knew that I’d have to settle for considerably smaller and less glamorous house in Washington (at least, until we could build on our lot in Anacortes).

Turning the bird cage on its side, Rich was able to get it to fit. With patience and much determination, I finished cleaning the last bit of the house and squished the last bit of food into the coolers. We crammed everything into the trailer we were hauling behind Rich’s truck. The cats were tossed in the back of the truck on a carpet-covered platform that Rich had built. And with a tear-streaked faced I said “good-bye” to a chapter of our lives and a house and plantings that brought us both much joy.

Good-bye to my herb garden, Japanese quinces, salvias, gardenias, irises, and flowering natives. Good-bye to my beloved kitchen with white tile counters and dozens of cupboards. Good-bye to our huge master bathroom with a coffee bar, complete with a little sink, refrigerator and microwave. Good-bye to our huge covered balcony where we used to watch lightening storms. Good-bye to ancient oak trees where we watched fawns and their mother feed. Good-bye to our cozy den where we watched NetFlixs. And good-bye to my hobby room with its bright green wall (for inspiration).