The work is done. There is a serenity to the change in my living space hard to fathom after the weeks-long process completely annihilated my well-ordered existence. The flooring work began on Monday, June 7th, and like many imagined transformations, this one was, while happening, much much worse than expected.
Sorry but there’s no delicate way to lunge at the emotional jugular; in a way, it paralleled the process of losing my Mom. Nothing prepares you for the emotional rug-out-from-underneath-you experience of losing your mother. Nothing prepares you for the finality of the moment when breath evaporates, one’s soul no longer tangible. I remember my response to her loss manifested itself in an immediate renovation of our house – repainting, freshening, lightening the walls to try to restore my equilibrium.
My current phase of renovation feels predictably responsive, though I waited two years after the death of my soul mate to undertake the freshening of the space. In an odd way, renovations like this are a little like preparing for hospice itself – replacing beds with hospital equipment to make caring for a loved one more manageable. When my husband came home from the hospital I had about three hours to dispose of the bed in the guest room. I remember rushing home to the building and just asking for help, something fairly uncharacteristic for me. Somehow that day I embodied a dry-eyed logistician; living in a building of 200 units paid off because someone is always renovating and there are always a contractor or two around for the asking. Nevertheless, I’ve remained grateful to the contractor who sent his two men to quickly dismember the bed and store it in some kind person’s storage cage.
Now these recent renovations were generated willingly, in search of future joys, not a future dread as in the hospice scenario. I packed all my books and knick knacks in the condo up, loading them out onto my balcony. Then last Monday rolled around and all hell broke loose. Joy seemed quite remote.
After Day 1, I felt like I was in an immersive production of Arthur Miller’s The Price, and I half expected the dear actor, Alan Mandell to shuffle out from behind one of my many bureaus to try to sell it to me.
Fortunately, I came home from work before it got dark, because there were no lamps anywhere and not a chair to sit in. I comforted myself by pulling a lamp out and plugging it into the wall next to my bed (my bedroom had not been pillaged yet), then went out to have a moment of self-care/dinner at Colori Kitchen, a hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant on 8th and Olive. A lovely caprese and radicchio salad rounded out with an order of cannolis set me right.
Home I went to read and then sleep. No TV or internet.
The morning of Day 2, I teased/begged the installers to leave me a lamp and a chair that night, and came home to find both – the chair in the kitchen, the lamp in my bedroom still.
That night I made guacamole using two of the dusty avocados ripening on the counter. I perched on the chair, watching Netflix on my computer by using my phone as a hot spot. Feeling dustier than the aforementioned avocados, I worked my way through the Les Mizesque battlement of furniture blocking my way to the shower. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a shower more; freshly clean, I tiptoed through the grime to the bed where I quickly fell asleep. All last week, I became an early morning Starbucks customer, grabbing my Venti English Breakfast and jumping in the car to head out to the Reservoir for my morning walk.
The reservoir and its denizens seemed dedicated to lifting my spirits. Coyote pups, a turtle, far from the dam laying her eggs, the usual multitude of deer on the road greeted us as we wended our way around the 3.4 mile loop.
The day after we saw the turtle laying her eggs, the ground was strewn with empty eggshells, someone having discovered them, dug them up and eaten them in the 24 hours between our visits. Maybe the coyote parents? I’m clearly not a naturalist here, but the opening seems too tidy for a canine’s diggings.
After day 3, I slept in the newly reconstituted guest bedroom, and finally after 4 days, the project was completed. Such a short time, but such a satisfying resolution. Not at all like the pain that hospice brings at its closure. Though my recovery from the project did involve the same contractor helping me to reassemble my washer and dryer.
Lastly, I asked the installers to help me load the one box of unopened wood and the two buckets of unopened glue into my car and on Friday, I returned those to Commerce to the Lumber Liquidator’s store for a credit. Filled out the survey to let them know I would recommend them to others.
I spent the weekend assessing how few of my belongings I would bring back. I’ve learned through this process that negative space invites calm. With this welcome realization, sorting through the books made winnowing them down much easier. After I got all the boxes unpacked, all weekend, I felt considerably less restless.
Last night I took some pizza over to my friends Tina and Michael’s house. They were in the throes of their own residential turmoil. They had the movers there, who were packing to get my friends on the road for their move to Illinois.
“Come in the side gate,” Tina instructed me. I found them in their garden gazebo, looking tired and not a little stressed by the impending move. After some pizza, we sat and shared the easy camaraderie of 20 years, while from their emptying house, we heard the echoey sound of plastic wrap stretching over their possessions. Making negative space in a home which has housed so many festive occasions over the years takes some doing. After Michael went off to assess the packing process, with a twinkle in her eye, Tina confided that she loves transition and change. I left them after about an hour to continue with their process of upheaval, returning to my quiet space at home.
Tonight they called, on the eve of their departure, regaling me about their last night in the house. They spent it on an air mattress with two dogs whose every movement bounced them up and down. Michael shared that his mother once told them a story about driving from Illinois to California with her grandfather in a Model A. When they left Illinois, she had a goldfish in a bowl on her lap. Predictably, the goldfish didn’t make it to California. Tomorrow, Tina and Michael leave California to drive to Illinois. Before we hung up, Tina chirped, “Hey Mike, let’s go get a goldfish in the morning!”
I know I’ve explored this before, but what if the Lake House isn’t a specific geographic location, but a series of places and experiences both physical, mental, spiritual? Adventure and joy-seeking personified. Maybe the walks with new friends, the ritual of a calming morning in a new space followed by constructive work and the occasional trip to a lake – all of that constitutes the “Lake House.”
“You’ve got a new zone, Mom,” said my wise son, Chris when I told him about the happy results of my labors. Either that or I’m balancing a gold fish bowl on my lap. Bon Voyage, Tina and Michael! Here’s to much joy in all of our adventures ahead!