the finish line
I spent an hour this morning winding a ball of yarn by hand after three unsuccessful attempts with the ball winder, and also staring into space. I can’t get my brain to order what needs to be cleaned or purged or packed. My default must be do something yarn-related, because I’ve made quite a bit of progress on several WiPs. Maybe people touring the house will be so enthralled with the handmade afghan casually draped over my chair they’ll not notice the tiles falling off the second floor bathroom wall? I hope.
Our guys are close to the finish line, and I'm not sure we're even in the same house! I'm excited to post some more before and after photos. Once they wrap up, I'll be able to put back everything we've shifted to give them room to work. I'm reminded of a section of E.B. White's essay "Good-Bye to Forty-Eighth Street":
Turtle Bay, November 12, 1957 For some weeks now I have been engaged in dispersing the contents of this apartment, trying to persuade hundreds of inanimate objects to scatter and leave me alone. It is not a simple matter. I am impressed by the reluctance of one’s worldly goods to go out again into the world. During September I kept hoping that some morning, as by magic, all books, pictures, records, chair, beds, curtains, lamps, china, glass, utensils, keepsakes would drain away from around my feet, like the outgoing tide, leaving me standing silence on a bare beach. But this did not happen. My wife and I diligently sorted and discarded things from day to day, and packed other objects for movers, but a six-room apartment holds as much paraphernalia as an aircraft carrier. You can whittle away at it, but to empty the place completely takes real ingenuity and great staying power. On one of the mornings of disposal, a man from a second-hand bookstore visited us, bought several hundred books, and told us of the death of his brother, the word cancer exploding in the living room like a time bomb detonated by his grief. Even after he had departed with his heavy load, there seemed to be almost as many books as before, and twice as much sorrow.
Every morning, when I left for work, I would take something in my hand and walk off with it, deposit in the big municipal wire trash basket at the corner of Third, on the theory that the physical act of disposal was the real key to the problem. My wife, a strategist, knew better and began quietly mobilizing the forces that would eventually put our goods to rout. A man could walk away for a thousand mornings carrying something with him to the corner and there would still be a home full of stuff. It is not possible to keep abreast of the normal tides of acquisition. A home is like a reservoir equipped with a check valve: the valve permits influx but prevents outflow. Acquisition goes on night and day — smoothly, subtly, imperceptibly. I have no sharp taste for acquiring things, but it is not necessary to desire things in order to acquire them. Goods and chattels seek a man out; they find him even though his guard is up. Books and oddities arrive in the mail. Gifts arrive on anniversaries and fete days. Veterans send ballpoint pens. Banks send memo books. If you happen to be a writer, readers send whatever may be cluttering up their own lives; I had a man once send me a chip of wood that showed the marks of a beaver’s teeth. Someone dies, and a little trickle of indestructible keepsakes appears, to swell the floor. This steady influx is not counterbalanced by any comparable outgo. Under ordinary circumstances, the only stuff that leaves a home is paper trash and garbage; everything else stays on and digs in.
So true. The clutter stares at me balefully, daring me to pitch it. Won't I need painter's tape, a jar full of marbles, used envelopes, and those blinds from the dining room windows someday?
When an artist friend of mine returns from travels in Scotland and Ireland, she’s said she’ll help me stage the house. She's got an unerring eye for arrangement. There’s a bunch of furniture we’re not taking with us, which will have to go. (Anyone want a free piano? If we can’t find a taker, we may just have to move it and start those piano lessons for Little M that we've been promising.)
We're wrapping up school things, and simultaneously preparing for summer events. Graduation parties, award ceremonies (that our son arrived at in the nick of time!), Zoom meetings, Greek festivals, the Ellinomatheia exams, dance, swim team try-outs, transporting a child home from college and then to her summer job four hours away...Oof. We can't seem to get our summer calendar set. There's a chance for some international travel for a couple of us, some necessary college and family visits, and possibly camp for the kids? My head is spinning. I keep telling myself that once the house is cleaned and staged, I'll feel a little more on top of everything? Maybe not.
Does it seem like most of what I ramble about here is the fullness of our schedule and my inability to cope with all the activity? I'm not seeking pity or complaining. By writing in this little corner of the internet, I'm processing and mentally organizing. I'm also grateful: grateful that my children are out in our big world, embracing what it has to offer, in turn offering themselves and being formed as persons; grateful that they pull their extremely introverted mother along with them, although crowds and meeting new people are challenging for her; grateful that we've accepted a life of service to Christ and the Church, and all the joy and heartbreak that entails. Amen.
(Bias Granny Stripe Afghan is finished! It's a perfect light layer for the still-chilly evenings we're having this May.)