It took me over six weeks to unpack the boxes in my new house. I know what you’re going to say next. “I moved six years ago and I’m still not fully settled in!” When I say unpack, I literally mean take necessary life items out of boxes. I’m no where near being fully settled in. My office floor is covered in piles of paper, files, art projects and picture frames like fire ant nests spread out over a field. The entire front of my house is still hideous shades of green and blue and almost entirely vacant of furniture. No, I don’t mean settle – I mean unpack.
Really, what was the rush? I could find my wine opener, one sharp knife and one pan for cooking. No need to bother with tea sets, mugs or serving platters. I made half-assed attempts to start living in my house, but they never stuck. I’d buy items to decorate, but leave them in bags in the garage. Like a squirrel, I cleared out a few sections of house and scurried among them in-between boxes. Even though I loved the location and loved aspects of my house, I struggled.
I realized it’s one thing to say, “This will be my new home!” while ordering custom bookshelves and merrily online shopping for furniture after one margarita too many. Once I moved past the idea of a new home, it was a lot harder to unpack frame after frame of our young, unknowing faces. They smiled at me as I took each out to place on a shelf. The finality of it all – this will be my new home.
In the past year, I have asked for time to stop, accelerate and rewind. It’s done none of these things, but instead marches forward. Unfaltering. My Dad came to visit and we started chipping away at the 60’s light fixtures and discussed more updates to bring Quail Manor into modern times. I invited friends over for happy hour. We drank a little too much wine and giggled about boys on my back porch while the dogs rolled in the cool grass. All of this felt right to me.
Last weekend my Mom came to visit, someone who’s desire to see me happy and successful knows no limits. I flipped through the interior design magazines she brought with her. We chatted furniture, and took the accessories sitting in my garage out of their bags and into the house. The last night she stayed with me, I bolstered my bravery and decided to tackle unpacking the last of the boxes.
I didn’t hesitate with the wedding photos or the tiny painting of my now dead dog, adding them to strings of my past on the new custom bookshelves. I took out the long broken “Little Drummer Boy” music box, an icon from Tim’s childhood that his mother should want but doesn’t. When we had previously unpacked it many moves ago, he had admitted to me that he had an uncanny attachment to the porcelain figure, washed with pale paint. So the trinket followed us around across the country. I hope I know what to do with this in the future, I thought as I put it on the shelf next to some paintings.
In my kitchen, I carefully placed what’s left of his Grandmother’s tea set up on a high shelf. The white bone china with its delicate swirls glistened next to the more modern sea green tea cups we registered for for our wedding, but never actually used. In a different section, I faced the designs outward on every day coffee mugs so I could see the Tardis design and scratched Salvador Dali artwork every time I opened my cabinet for a water glass, since I rarely ever drink coffee. I put up the plain white Le Creuset teapot I had bought Tim for Valentine’s day one year when he was big into a hot tea phase and thought; Lord, I loved that man the best way I knew how.
It ended up taking less than an hour to finish unpacking those last few boxes I had been putting off, and I didn’t even ask for time to accelerate.
That night I went to bed like I do every night in this house. I still sleep on the same side I always have, even though the only person I’m sharing a bed with is a large black dog who doesn’t care where I sleep so long as some part of me is touching her. Tim and I were never a couple that slept cuddled together like two hibernating bears. If I fell asleep with my head rested on his bare shoulder, skin cool from a ceiling fan circling above us, I’d inevitably wake hours later feeling like someone was sucking all the oxygen out of the air. No, I need to sleep in a bubble of personal space where the air is cool and safely full of oxygen, but I still wanted to feel him close to me. I developed a habit of keeping one arm stretched towards him at night. I’d fall asleep with my fingertips resting against the broadside of his back. At any time of the night, I could stretch a little further (often over a snoring Boston Terrier) and rest my palm over the curve of his forearm.
I look around the house before I fall asleep, and notice it feels less like an unexpected stop and more like something planned and purposeful. Without boxes lining the walls, everything feels less urgent. One day I’ll get the painting done, and eventually there will be furniture in every room. Maybe I’ll even experience a utopian future where the files of my office are organized by subject and year versus “This is the pile I need to worry about this week and over there is the stuff we can put off for a bit more.”
This little brick house, 60’s eccentricities and all, won’t be my new home… because it is my new home. It feels right to me. Even so, I still sleep every night with one arm outstretched – reaching out to something that’s just beyond my grasp.