The house is still a vortex of moving chaos, but I have managed to open every single box and sift the contents. Fairly early in the process I thought hey, why not just take them to Goodwill, packed, and then I won't know what is lost but I persevered. There are only about four boxes upstairs, full of books and toys, and I can deal with them easily. Downstairs is worse, with maybe a dozen boxes of jumble to sort, garment racks in the kitchen, dressers in the laundry room, and technical books stacked waist-high in the hall. But fundamentally, it is more a process of cleaning and putting up new shelves and all those tedious small tasks. My legendary, murky, cosmic, thing-breeding basement has been vanquished.
I went to Portland for the last of the boxes, all marked glass 1994. These boxes were packed when I finished my masters degree, when my grandmother died, and contained the precious small things she gave me throughout my childhood. This is the first house that has been enough of a home to open the boxes. I unpacked them last night and gently placed them on the shelves of the scientific cabinet.
The dancing lady with the basket of flowers, the old faded cookie jar, the small oil lamps etched with roses, a dozen delicate teacups in a box with my grandmother's jagged pencil-scrawl on the top reminding me of so many trips to thrift stores, yard sales, coffee with the great-aunts, playing with the dogs and kittens and sitting quietly in the orchard.
I unpacked the shoe collection, two dozen or more glass and porcelain shoes she bought for me when I was very young and stayed with her part of each summer. I remember so distinctly the exquisite joy, the shivering emotion clenching my stomach, when we would find a shoe carelessly jumbled with dishes and figurines. The shoes were marked fifty cents or at the most one dollar and that is the precious heritage my grandmother gave to me, the knowledge that it only takes a good companion and fifty cents to have the most fun in the whole wide world.
I haven't been deprived of email (aside from trips to the Rocky Mountains) since 1992. The three weeks with no phone, in a sea of boxes and packing materials, left me with no choice but to unpack. I also read several books (best bet: Michelle Tea's The Chelsea Whistle) and all my magazines and even a few newspapers, in between figuring out which wall the taxidermied deer should live on. And finally, after so many years, started to get a glimmer of how to cook.
I still don't know how to do much, but I have figured out a few things. Like eggplant lasagne with spinach and goat cheese, honey mustard baked salmon, muffins. I always knew how to bake but my arms were too damaged, and now they are healed -- I've been making cookies, and maybe this week I'll make a three-tiered cake.
We moved over Labor Day weekend and entered a communications void -- the phone company didn't hook up the phone for three weeks (and thus no email or internet access).
But we did move.
This is the nicest house we have ever lived in, and though by some standards it is plain and small, it is exponentially nicer than our dilapidated Portland house. It has all the modern marvels: a functional bathroom with working faucets and white tiled floors, a thermostat, a gas stove. I've happily traded any lingering shred of punk rock credibility for dimmer switches and coved ceilings.