packing up the jalopy again

On Monday I receive one of those, oh-yeah-that’s-about-to-happen phone calls.  The G. family, who owns the home we currently housesit, has finally achieved their goal of selling the residence (sort of; they signed papers on a lease-to-own). Some families, mom would wait, talk to dad, get all the details of the move figured out, then have a family meeting and explain it to the kids in small words. But:

After I congratulate our landlords and hang up the phone, I walk into my kitchen. “I’ve got some news,” I tell the kids. “The G. family sold their house!”  A split second later and the kids break into sunny smiles.  “We’re going to move!” they say happily.  They start discussing options: definitely need a yard for the chickens.  A treehouse or potential for one. Aberdeen is a possibility, Hoquiam is preferred.

I admire my children, I really do.  I feel also a small bit of pride that Ralph and I have offered nothing but the best care we could give, and a lot of loving outpouring, to our time in the house (including glowing testimony to the few prospective clients who’ve trickled into the home). We have been relatively anxiety-free about the next move and that’s being reflected in our kids’ attitudes; good.

The last couple nights the family has driven here or there, looking at houses in the area.  This is an amusing enterprise if nothing else.  My mother is urging us to live rent- and utility-free in her large house while we complete the process of buying a home.  This is a generous offer of hers (as well as was her brainstorm to cash out my inheritance at this early date which would reduce her interest income per month drastically; another idea she had!  I have a pretty awesome mommy) and makes a lot of sense money-wise.  She has been spending more and more time at her boyfriend’s lately and I think more than anything she likes the idea of that huge house filled up.  Driving around looking at all the relatively high-priced dumps, and remembering what it was like to work with a property management entity (Aberdeen Realty, suck it!), and the sheen of excitement regarding moving dulls a little.

You know what I really, really want?  I want to live in some yurt on a little piece of property. Yeah, you heard me. Odds of husband’s enthusiastic agreement? 100 to No Fucking Thank You.

happy new year – here’s some pee

At about 7 AM when it was still dark I woke up and realized in that faster-than-lightening-but-somehow-in-slow-motion way you do upon suddenly waking – that my son had just wet the bed (a bed I was also sleeping in). We’re talking an inch of standing water. My left arm soaked from shoulder to elbow. I sat up – very dismayed. Nels sat up, “I had to pee, but it was tooooo laaaaate…” he begins to sob.

“It’s OK,” I tell him. Ralph takes the child downstairs to wash and change. I tackle the bed. Dripping, waterfall-esque cascades of water. I’m not even upset – just impressed. My son’s urine does not smell at all unpleasant to me, a fact that helps later as we fall asleep on the freshly-made bed and he cuddles close again and I catch the slightest parts per million still in the air. Nels is back alseep quickly. In the new light I can see his profile: perfect. His eyes turned up elvish at the corners, just like his father’s. But features all his own, growing and changing before my very eyes. I am glad to have him here still clinging to me. It won’t last forever like this.

Last night’s dinner was lovely. For the second New Year’s in a row our group (this year consisting of my foursome, my mother, aunt, and sister; three friends J., R., and M.) went to Alexander’s in Hoquiam. I wanted to get the king crab dinner – it seemed like something that would come to the table looking monstrous, claws sticking up and all. I lost my nerve and instead settled for a bleu steak, or whatever it’s called when you eat grilled, medium (bloody!) red meat with bleu cheese on top. I think it’s called “just plain decadent”. The kind of thing to bolster my near-vegetarian fare at home and help with today’s bike sojourn. The kids dressed up: Sophie with clip-on earrings and a giant hair bow, Nels in sparkly mary janes, a full layered skirt, pirate t-shirt, and much jewelry: “I’m a Night Girl,” he tells me proudly.

For the New Year countdown my mother brought over a huge version of homemade tiramisu; my sister and the kids whooped at the rather extravagant fireworks displays in our neighborhood. We played the victrola at midnight. I felt subdued, over-worked, worried and fussy – but it was clear the rest of the family had a great time.

Moving is not quite over. I’ve spent the last couple days caring for the babies, cleaning and cooking while my husband tackles cleanup and painting at the old place. Yesterday I made six loaves of bread in the new kitchen. Breadmaking may be my way of territorially “marking” my home as my own. My house is filled up with the warm, yeasty smell, filling stuffed in the bread like cinnamon, butter and sugar; two more loaves with parmesan, garlic, and yes, more butter. The chickens are home and laying; yesterday we retrieved an egg and Sophie (the more adventurous chicken) got out of the coop and eventually made it to the alley where I joke that she donned a leather jacket and started smoking, terrifying the neighbors.

The kids make everything worthwhile; the pain of moving (which I have not been writing about, hoping I will forget it soon), the oddness of new thermostats and changed routines. They are my compass for when it’s time to rest, time to eat, and time to relax; they help close doors and carry laundry. They compliment my cooking: “This smells great!” Sophie says as she opens the oven, her bearing as proud as if she’d made the bread herself. And as it turns out – at least for now – they are more resiliant for adventure than I.

mamma mia, here we go again

Moving is hard for me. When I have mentioned this this today people think something is going wrong with the proceedings. Not at all. In fact things are going swimmingly – despite the family who’s moving out of our new abode being a weensy bit behind schedule. This is no big deal, at all. I will just have to wait one more night before my sweet new digs.

No, moving is hard for me even when the move is a joyful one. In the beginning stages, moving is a destructive process. The kitchen I’d tried so hard to keep clean pulled apart; leftover food thrown out, newspaper strewn on the floor, food taken off dusty or sticky shelves and crammed into a temporary cardboard home.

It also requires a lot of letting go. I can see why so many people drag huge amounts of things from place to place; why after living somewhere for years they will move again and admit they didn’t even unpack certain parcels they’d moved with before. Why let go of things? It hurts to do so. Better to forgo the process and accrue, accrue.

We dismantle the house and it feels like destroying memories. The tiny pieces of tile my kids (for some reason) hid under the corner of their bed? I have to throw them away. Pulling the stacks of fabric out of the sewing room is leaving behind the joyful memories of all the creations made there. The kids’ room: lights, blankets, and carefully-stocked shelves of folded clothes stripped bare, the room instead filled with echos.

Today Ralph and I each think the other has the harder job; he carrying, loading, and hauling (with the help of two friends). Me entertaining the kids and serving as a go-fer. I’ll be in full force during the cleaning / unpacking stage. This house that we’re currently cramming our things into will soon become our home; coffee brewing, music playing, the heat warming me as I ritualistically scrub the tub and listen to my children playing with their new Christmas toys.

But for now, we’re just pulling things apart and it feels kind of bad.

last Christmas, i gave you my heart / the very next day, Hogabooms moved away

It’s hard to believe that in just a few nights this home won’t be mine anymore; I will be sleeping in and cooking in and traveling from a new one. We transfer only a mile and a half away, but still – it is going to feel odd to say goodbye to a house, a neighborhood, and neighbors that we have thoroughly enjoyed. In a few days I’ll be cooking in a kitchen painted with bright colors and drawing a bath in my long-pined for clawfoot tub (or at least scrubbing a clawfoot tub like a maniac); getting used to the sound of highway traffic and sewing while overlooking a wild and lovely back yard.

One of the best things about my life is my children; in this case, how ready and excited they are for adventure. It occurs to me that this Christmas is going to be a wonderful memory for them; not just for the gifts and the snow (both of these in stronger measure than in years past) but for the exodus to 2323 Sumner Avenue. The children have helped us pack, move furniture on to new homes, bake and sew and make ready for all we’ve had to do. They have not been impediments but wee partners in our enterprises.

As for me, I miss my father terribly. A day does not go past I don’t think of him and feel deeply sad. Last year for Christmas we went through this whole Sumatran coffee fiasco – I don’t have the heart right now to tell the story although I do love to recount it, and we continue to purchase Sumatran coffee half in jest over the episode. It hurts me badly that he is someone who has been baldly, abruptly scratched off my gift list. Along with missing my father I’ve also had to experience the changes in my mother, a new widow – many changes, and some of them rather surprising. I count myself as an adult friend to her, someone who can accompany her on this journey in good faith and with love.

I am reminded we used to call my father the Ghost of Christmas Bastard; it was a name Ralph made up. My dad was a long distance runner and this time of year would don a santa hat. He’d be out there busting ass (he was very fast), his thin, gaunt frame carring this silly-ass hat my mom made. He was also, of course, a bastard, a curmudgeon; at turns both elegant, witty and urbane, and the next thing you know he’d be on a semi-profane rant with his mouth open and food in it.

I miss him, just terribly.