Wow. I’m not sure you can call it a vacation when it’s so much work. I’m on a plane again, trying to make the best of my limited battery life, and trying not to dwell on how metaphoric that is.
Four days ago I stepped off the plane in Newark and went through that weird adjustment phase where you look at your home through the eyes of a foreigner for about an hour. The cars are strange. The roads are wider. The spaces bigger, distances longer. And the heat. My god. It was well and truly warm. The entire “summer” in the Netherlands it reached a point where you could walk around in a t-shirt only one or two days so far.
Ken was kind enough to pick me up since Ann was at that very same moment receiving the keys to her new apartment that we would be moving into. I have to hand it to Ann, she found a place to rent and scheduled some movers to transport all our stuff from storage in record time. When she told me a week ago that she wasn’t going to get the place she wanted in Canal Pointe Blvd (after having signed the lease and submitted the deposit and everything). I was sure that this visit was just going to be a four day poker and barbecue event.
Instead, we spent all day Friday shopping for all those items you need when you start a life again. New pots and pans. New TV. New vacuum cleaner. Kitchen stuff. Cleaning stuff. All those essentials without which life as we know is it not possible. It took close to a thousand dollars and a trip to that now-familiar temple of domesticity IKEA.
Saturday we met the three movers at the storage facility, loaded everything into the truck in an hour, drove 45 minutes (and managed to get lost driving to our new home, typical), and unloaded for an hour. Less than three hours to move the entire contents of six years of marriage. It took the rest of the day to unpack everything.
We kept finding the strangest things. Bottles of shoe protecting spray that had been wrapped in three sheets of moving paper. A tangled mess of cables to devices we don’t even own any more. Boxes of memorabilia that my mom lovingly collected from my grade school years and now gets tucked away in yet another closet. An ungodly number of candles. At least four hundred tea lights. Maybe five. Fancy dishes and glasses that are still in the same bubble wrap we put them in after our first move in late 2000.
It’s an unsettling process, unpacking the physical manifestation of your life. Every item brings up its story in your mind. For a while it’s comforting, to see the evidence of your existence so solidly displayed. But it quickly becomes overwhelming when you unpack it all at once, and then you have the strange shame of so callously manhandling the silver candlesticks that were wedding gifts, or the souvenirs from that trip to Barcelona, or the hundred other things that have simply become a burden at the moment when it’s ninety degrees, humid as hell, and you’re jetlagged with twenty-nine other boxes to unpack.
But we got through it all. Hands dry and raw from handling cardboard boxes all day. Clothes stuck to our bodies. If I had to remember right now where I put a single item I just couldn’t. Everything went somewhere that it seemed logical to put it, and I’m sure that Ann will have to spend many hours re-placing all the items which I put in the closet which should be in the laundry room or vice versa.
Having done it just a month ago myself, I know what she’s in for and don’t envy her the time spent just putting your house in order. She’s got twice the space and five times the amount of stuff to deal with… but she’s a hundred times more organized and hard-working than I am, so I know she’ll be fine.
It’s always exhausting, turning an empty set of walls and carpet into your home. I imagine that, like it was for me a month ago, Ann will have some emotional vertigo as she gets used to looking at all those old items in their new positions and locations. But eventually they will look like they have always been there and she won’t do a double-take just to make sure that it really IS the same armoir as before. And eventually she’ll be able to navigate the breadth of the apartment in the dark and half asleep. Eventually… it will be home.
So, even though there is still so much left to do, welcome home Ann.