RIP little red bus

21 02 2010

In these old houses, one innocent project always leads the way to ten unexpected detours.  I suppose it starts back at getting our bamboo fence put in last summer.  Next was having the massive, ugly white pine taken out of the front yard which opened up the view to the porch and exposed how badly we need a paint job.  That put me in a bind because I can’t for the life of me figure out what TWO colors I want the trim painted…the body of the house will stay the same but I just need to settle on TWO.  But they should be in line with the roof color, right?  And the gutter work we had done with the new roof two summers ago…

That led to the fact that the basement window frames are showing their 100 year-plus age and needed serious work -which lead me to thinking about finally having glass-block windows put in, thus doing away with the frames.  So we got the estimate months ago and found that getting work done in the winter is cheaper.  Sure – no brainer but they have to do the install before the end of February before their busy time of Home and Garden trade shows starts in March.

That is where my funk began.  It messed with all my glorious plans of escaping the gray and saving my sanity with a Cali trip…not to mention my Best Boy / Mimi deficit.  Being old enough for an AARP card, it is time to act my age, bite the bullet and make a grown-up decision.  Trip cancelled and install scheduled for Tuesday of this week, although I have a sneaking suspicion it will be canceled till the following week since they are predicting 8″ of snow over the next four days.  THAT is a 25 lb. bag of salt in my open wound.

They need access to all six windows from the inside.  So I swallow the bitter pill and begin to do what is seems like I have been doing for the last two years in Billy’s basement on my own rat’s nest of stuff.  I am finally figuring out why I’ve been in such a bad mood for so long.

It is an emotionally exhausting process on top of the horrid assault to my sinuses to be digging through years of memories.  There are almost 40 boxes of books that represent the grueling years of graduate and post-graduate study that are going to be donated to a not-for-profit that takes theological libraries and redistributes them around the world.  That was a lot of groceries not purchased…alot of old cars that randomly wouldn’t start…rental, after rental, after rental…and no cruises on the Caribbean.

Then there are the boxes that held the early creative years of Best Boy and Shop Girl.  Pieces of wood, colored with magic marker which became instrument panels for F-16’s.  Dolls made of socks, buttons and a little glued on lace.  Glow-worms, Pound Puppies, a Cabbage Patch named Phoebe, a box of micro mini cars and helicopters, a remote control 4×4 that lit his face up like a Christmas tree…this is the hard part.

They aren’t just old toys.  They are old memories.  I am clinging to the Clean House mantra that keeping the toy doesn’t preserve the memory.  I know that.  It’s just the stuff of life that has gotten us to the place we are at today.  It has no real value now that its weight has doubled with dust mites.

I am glad that I can at least snap a digital photo here and there before things disappear into the black recesses of a contractor’s bag bound for the Salvation Army.  I know that in this town there are hundreds of families who’s kids live for the Saturday trip to the resale stores to claim their own $1 prize.  And if it keeps these trinkets out of the landfill one more year…so be it.

Obviously, there are those things doomed to the blue city garbage bag immediately. Last garbage day that meant 10 bags not counting the loads of recycled cardboard!  When I can find a way to eek a bit more life out of these things, I’m committed to that.  I’m most thrilled to have remembered a Hispanic cultural center / library in town that is willing to take lots and lots of kids books in English and Spanish. It feels like the good they had in my kids’ lives will keep on.

That is really the issue here.  Perceived value.  That is why things have been dragged from pillar to post over the last twenty some odd years because they were “their” possessions.  I always knew this day would come but I never wanted to rush it.  There was enough inherent pain with each move, with each good-bye, with each pulling up of tender roots.  We couldn’t just drive by the places they spent a year here or two years there.  Those places are 4000 miles away.  So I kept the stuff.

Yesterday on Facebook, a friend was looking for some skis.  I quickly replied that Best Boy’s skis of high school years were still leaning against a door frame upstairs.  He stopped by with his two kids to take a look to see if they’d fit the bill.  We even had a pair of ski boots someone had given the Dr. years ago that were the right size.

The six-year-old noticed a bag of Legos on the dining room table and asked about them.  “Oh, those used to be Best Boy’s and I cleaned them up real good so that I’d have a toy or two here when Donny Diva comes to Momo’s house to stay.”  The nine-year-old piped up, “Our Mom threw away all our Legos and never told us.”  I tried to stifle my reaction.  “She DID WHAT???”  I know the whole story and for a few years theirs looked doomed to be a repeat of our as they made two different trips to live in Israel.

There is only so much you can move with you with two kids to settle in unknown surrounds.  How much storage will you have?  Dishes or Legos?  Coats or Cabbage Patch dolls?  I know the story from inside the mom’s brain.  But I also heard the betrayal in that little voice as she said to her dad, “That was our stuff and you never asked us…”

I get it.  I’ve been given permission.  I’m glad to do away with the ball and chain that has been dragging behind us all these years.  But I also know that Shop Girl doesn’t quite understand the tug on my heart since Donny Diva hasn’t started making things yet, drawing on things yet, adoring things yet…she hasn’t doubled over in laughter yet as she sees the places his imagination will take him and with such unlikely tools.

But the truth is still that with Billy’s basement all cleaned out and freshly painted, I don’t miss him less because all that stuff isn’t down there.  And I won’t love Best Boy and Shop Girl one ounce less because I tossed the Little Red Bus.  Nonetheless, it still stings just a little remembering how proud he was to have made it and been picked to be front and center at the year-end program chirping out in English since it was a British School…”The little red bus goes up and down, up and down, up and down.  The little red bus…”


a moving day

14 12 2009

I’ve been doing a lot of looking over my shoulder these days.  Moving always does that to me.  This one wasn’t my move but one I fully participated in.  The experience always has me thinking back over the 22 some odd moves the Dr. and I have made…some before Best Boy and Shop Girl were around – but most after.

I was about the age Shop Girl is right now when after 5 moves in less than 5 years I got a taste of a big move.  It was time to pack up our things for our overseas adventure in Spain.  Best Boy was two and a few months – Shop Girl a hearty 7 months old when a semi-truck pulled up to the front door to haul away the air freight shipment I had prepared.  Each box had to be weighed, measured, a bill of lading prepared in triplicate, customs paper work and off it went.  That sentence actually took me months to do and seconds to write.  I remember standing behind a screen door with tears running down my face from exhaustion and fear of a new life I knew nothing about – trying to explain to the 2 year old where all his toys had gone.

That was only the beginning.  I know a thing or two about packing.  The next handful of places never lasted more than 4 years and some as short as 3 months.  I could pack for a week or a month or a year at the drop of a hat.  A dozen years after that first trip over the pond, I watched as the things most precious to us were loaded into a 12 foot sea-worthy container headed back to the States with Spain at our backs.

Not one of them has been pretty.  Some I’ve been glad to move on and leave the particular space with a whole hearted “good riddance” – others with fond tears flowing but none without a good bit of trauma.  Everytime your life is dragged out of the dark cupboards and closets, basements and out from under beds it is traumatic.  To touch everything you own and visually and mentally assess it as it gets prepared for its new place is exhausting.

Shop Girl’s experience last week was no different…except maybe adding the stress of adjusting to less sleep than she’s ever had in her life as the mom of a month old baby and continuing to deal with the whack job of a landlord that started this whole mess. It was no wonder that in a brief pause between truck loads, with no one else around but me and Donny Diva – she collapsed into wrenching sobs when she looked at the chaos starting to take shape as a livingroom and she said, “I’m home!”

I knew what she meant.  She gets to start where it took me forty years to get to.  She gets to give Donny Diva a bedroom to call his own.  She won’t be playing Goldilocks like I did for most of my life.

It wasn’t a pretty move – a smooth move – an organized move.  One small U-haul truck, a handful of able bodied friends and family, the sunshine of a Saturday post-blizzard, the job got done…moving all the personal belongings of a new family from one rented space to their own 6 blocks away.  She has a long winter ahead to organize closets and decide where things should best go.

I wish that all this first-hand experience would have taught me to travel lightly through life.  I fear it hasn’t but I also detect a change.  I’m no longer responsible for Best Boy and Shop Girl’s things.  What is left in the basement will get offered then tossed.  They haven’t asked for it in 10 years – they probably don’t care.  But up until now – I didn’t feel like I had the right to throw away their past – the bits and pieces of the places we’ve lived.  We can’t drive by those apartments, tiny houses  and condos, the place where they planted a tree in the yard, point a finger to remember those days so I chose to drag some pieces with us.  I’m not sorry I did…I’m just ready to move on.

If I have learned anything from this last year of sorting through Billy’s life – it is that disorganization leads to waste…I buy another doo-hickey when I can’t find the one I think I have. In my effort to hold on to things that SOMEONE might need SOMETIME – others could be getting benefit from it now if I’d just get it packed into the car and drive to the closest donation drop box.

Oh, and Shop Girl…I’ll drop off your boxed wedding dress tomorrow.

For good visuals of how I’d like to live from now on..check out Shop Girl’s producer/musician friend Evan Slamka’s video with Marjorie Fair’s Empty Room and then be a good Do-Bee and donate a box of junk you keep dragging around.