Unpacking and Unknowing

Unpacking and Unknowing

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.

13 thoughts on “Unpacking and Unknowing

  1. You have written a lot of well-written, eloquent posts, but this is magnificent. Just incredible writing from start to finish. Selfishly, thank you for letting us hear the beautiful words going through your mind, even though I know sharing must not always be easy. I hope you get something out of it too.

  2. I love that your home has its own name. You write so beautifully. I’m so glad your mom and dad have been there to help you with these steps. I wish you many nights of peace in that beautiful backyard with those pups.

  3. You are the 2nd blogger that I read that has lost their husband within the last year. It scares the crap out of me thinking that could happen to me. I don’t think I could be as strong as either of you have been.

    I know I could not blog about it. I haven’t even been able to blog about my sweet Putter Jean who we lost last Thursday. I raised her for 16 years and she was my baby . Her mean ol momma abandoned her when she was a kitten. Only a week or so old. I bottle fed her and brought her to work for a couple of months to take care of her.

    Take care,

  4. it took many weeks, and the help of my mother, to unpack into my new apartment after moving back to a city i thought i’d left… i hear ya. i’m glad it feels so right now!

  5. I still have two rooms that aren’t furnished…. I’ve been here 10 years this August. I applaud you, because you’ve been through an awful lot and managed to make a new home. I have not been through much of anything than the norm, and STILL haven’t finished putting this place together!
    You’re adulting really well! Thanks for sharing with us 🙂

  6. I love how open you are in your posts. You let strangers into your personal life and that’s a hard thing to do but man do I appreciate it. Every post is a great post 🙂

  7. I am a horse person, and I love your horsey posts and pictures of Simon’s face. However, the posts like this are the ones that inspire me. They inspire me to keep moving forward even when life makes it easier to stop and to enjoy life even when there are only small moments to enjoy.

    I hope you know that your writing truly has an impact on all of your readers – even those like me that do not typically comment. Thank you for opening up to us.

  8. Considering that we are just now moving and unpacking boxes that have been packed for the past ten years since my Grandmother passed away, you are way ahead of my current house project!

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