I woke up one morning, not so long ago, oppressed by the sheer weight of the items I owned, that were packed into my house like something assembled for shipping by an expert in Japan. I started what I'll call "the purge." If you've been reading me on any kind of regular basis you've heard about various aspects of this for a while. If you're here for the first time you're unacquainted with the boxes of books, the tonnage of clothes, the whole kitchen of unnecessary items I've let go of so far. DVDs, travel trailer, snake cage, wall art, furniture, all given away and not sold, because I am affluent enough in my life to give and not sell; the gratification and joy that has come with that. The things I have let go of, the people I have gained and assimilated into my family circle in the midst of letting go, the joy that has come with culling material items. If you haven't been reading me, you can join me here.
Michael's response to all that was to clean. Clean the spaces left open from the removal of stuff that had sat there for sometimes the entire 13 years I've lived in this house. There is no Merry Maid that can clean as thoroughly or deeply as Michael can. I think this comes from being a professional painter. You can't paint it until it's clean. Recently our home has become a place I am happy to invite friends into, because it looks like a home, not one of the episodes on Dr. Phil about hoarders, except with two little dogs running through it all.
My urge to divest myself of items has it's taproot in the fact that in 2006 the owner of this house said that he was going to retire in 2010, and wanted to live here after retirement. That sounded forever away when he said it, like the distance to 1984 when I first read it in 7th grade. Yet we're over halfway through 2009 now, and the thought of moving out of this house where I began living when Molly was three years old and started my mass accumulation with the assistance of 20 roommates or so was a terrifying and daunting prospect. Each and every person who has shared this house with me has left something or a lot of somethings behind, and I still have it all. Had it all, until the purge began. Terror is a powerful motivation.
Another of Michael's special gifts is that he can speak to plants and earth, sometimes with tough love, and make them do as he pleases. For some reason, Inka is always at his side, helping and meowing at him, as though cheering him on. The half acre or so that we call yard has always been daunting, and time has always felt short. I haven't really encouraged him to work his magic with our outer environment since there's been a four year clock ticking. "Help me with the inside of the house, and that two car garage, back from when cars were really cars, and big ones." I would tell him. He completely cleaned and organized the basement for us at one time, and the things that didn't make the cut began a pile, that when joined with the greenery that naturally wants to reclaim the open space created a wall that sealed off the rest of the yard at the bottom of the steps leading from the house into the back yard. It was that way for a long time. He bought a machete, a really large one, and brought it home to show me. I could see the Indiana Jones fantasies swirling around his head, see the hat and the bullwhip coiled at his waist, he was going to take it on, Michael VS the yard. It didn't really work out that way. I mocked him where I shouldn't have.
Then we got Josh and Lauren for the trade of a snake cage and the meager offering of some tattoos that will cover his old life and speed him along his way to a new one. They are some of the family we got in exchange for giving things that probably had monetary value. Older blogs. I don't know if you read them. Between Michael who has a vision and Josh who can rip out trees bare-handed the clearing began. Together they made a pile of ex-yard that was large and impressive enough to warrant an abatement notice from the fire department in our driveway. Calling it a pile is not even doing it justice, it's a funeral pyre for a king. It's a problem for the city of Napa.
These kinds of notices generate communication with the owner of a house, the absentee homeowner who I have never been able to reach personally because he goes through a management company. I do all my own repairs here, or have them done so that the management company never remembers that I exist. When the bathroom floor went mushy and every shower came with the question "Is this the time when I'm going to fall into the basement in this cast iron tub, naked and wet, and break both my legs?" I paid 6,000. in a combination of cash and tattoos to have the tub taken out and an entire new floor and sub-floor put in. Why? Because the only real answer to real repairs would be to kick us out and totally remodel this old house and rent it for what it's truly worth. I'm paying rent that is still stuck in the price range for a house like this 13 years ago, plus the one raise of 75 dollars that has happened in all that time. So I got an email from the actual owner asking me about the pile and what my plans for it were.
Fortunately, I was able to answer that a yard-waste box was arriving Wednesday (today) and that I had a whole crew of people willing to help me get it loaded up. The whole crew part was really Michael, Josh, Michael II the sequel and his friends and Paul if he's willing to wake up and help. It'll be here for a few days, we'll get it chain-sawed into small pieces and loaded to it's max capacity by then, and the garbage company will come and take it away. Then I sent him pictures of his back yard as it looks today, and explained that the pile is evidence of the "deep cleaning" that's been done out there. I was able to work in that my husband is a professional painter and handyman who would like to paint and weatherize the front porch, which badly needs it. ("we care for your house") also, that he would like to paint the two sides of the house that have no artificial siding but are the original lap wood siding and are deteriorating and need some professional painter's love. I told him that my husband loves and cares for this house as if it were his own. His response was that he is "considering retiring in JUNE of 2010" (the word considering made my heart soar) and that he "has many options, but moving back to Napa is low on his priority list." My belief and my prayer is that he may allow us to continue to live in this wonderful old house where all three of my children have grown up, and longer than I had imagined. We want to buy a house, but our own personal economy is in no way prepared to buy one, even though now is the time to do it. Michael is just starting school, and will have to work full time to pull his part of the household expenses, so he doesn't have the luxury of being a full-time student. It's going to be a while before we hang his degree on our wall.
I have never met a man who is more willing to work hard and ceaselessly to better his family's situation than my husband, but one man can only do what he can do. Me, I'll just ride the economy, find the answers to my disease and return to whatever good health I can, and work my ass off to carry what I can while he goes to school. Maybe we'll divest ourselves of a few adult children who draw on our resources without contributing to our situation. However it goes we'll build what we can, and prune what has over-grown.
The box arrives today, and we'll fill it and send those bits of yard on their way. My head is a blinding helmet of pain, I have no appointments and though I should sit in my shop and hope for something to come my way I think I'll put a note on the door with my phone number and go into the land of garage with my daughter and slowly but surely start picking through my past that's stored there, and other pasts that have been left there by others. I'll keep what I really need and make a pile of the rest for future removal. Even if we get to stay and aren't going to have to move we're going to slim down and trim up and in the words of my ocean going friend make things "ship shape." This feels good and right. This feels like being a real grown up. When we do move from here, whether into our own home, or into another rental, or into a box down by the river we'll be so much lighter, and the old saying "less is more" wouldn't be cliche if it weren't so true.