A Place for Everything

My favorite part of moving is settling in. Finally. All the rush-hassle of packing, arranging movers, schlepping items to the Good Will or new home and living with ceiling-high piles of boxes subsides. Energy slowly creeps back, each day a sliver closer to being able to walk and think without creaking.

Figuring out where everything goes, the human trail of do-dads and odds and ends and artifacts and books and notebooks that I drag from home to home like a colorful kite I hope to fly.

My sister and I are both our engineer father’s daughters, with an innate sense of organization. An ability to be both creative and logical. Just as I can organize a story in logical fashion and my sister a website, we can also figure out the most efficient way to lay out and store items. And to make them look good too.

Each new home presents a unique set of challenges. What worked beautifully in one kitchen, such as putting all the pots and pans in a cupboard next to the stove, doesn’t work in another, with the stove cupboard so narrow it will only hold a wire rack. Or the bizarro cupboard with 6-inch deep shelves that worked for cookbooks now replaced by a pull-out wood tray that wobbles and sticks and makes all the plastic ware fly out onto the floor.

My sister is fortunate enough to have designed her kitchens and other spaces to exact specifications. She takes a place for everything to a level that would have awed our OCD father. That is a challenge, of course, just as working with what’s there is also a challenge.

I’m always pleased when items fall into the right place and are aesthetically appealing too. It doesn’t always happen immediately. Sometimes I sit in a room for a few weeks before it hits me that the couch would look better a few inches over, the tables and lamps need to be switched, and the ottoman should be moved out of sight completely. (It’s a small room.)

So far, I have really lucked out with the turquoise bureau. Originally enamel black with a slight Chinese accent, my mother bought it after dad died and she moved into a modern condo with a whole new look, including bright red and green glossy tables.

It was her bedroom bureau until she married our step-dad. I think he used it for awhile. When they bought a larger house, the bureau was moved into the guest room and painted white. A neutral palate for neutral guests, or for those of us in the family needing safe havens, including me, my son, and my niece (at different times).Turquoise Bureau

The bureau has big, deep drawers and when I visited I was able to comfortably tuck away my basic items. But as time went on, I noticed the drawers began to fill up with my mom’s and step-dad’s overflow. They took up photography and my mom calligraphy and designed greeting cards and eventually got computers with all the design software. Each time I yanked open a drawer it got harder and harder, with paper and photographs and camera parts and computer gizmos jammed together and spilling over. Finally, there was no space in the bureau at all for guests and so I would just lay all my clothes on the other twin bed. (There was no room left in the closet either, which my step-dad filled with his elephant-sized Ansel Adams cameras.)

After our step-dad died and mom coped with running a big house by herself, I didn’t have the heart to say anything about the bureau. She finally agreed to downsize close to my sister and the time came to give away much of her furniture. I asked for the bureau and my younger son transported it in his truck from Hermosa Beach to La Jolla.

I had the perfect spot for it in my office, a little alcove in the wall. And I knew right away it should be painted turquoise, my favorite color. I hired my artist-photographer-musician friend Patrick to do it – bright shiny enamel. It pleased me to look at it every day and know it held all my office supplies beautifully.

Then I moved around the corner and what do you know, there was an alcove in that office too! And now, two years later, I move again. This time I have a walk-in closet off my office – and the CLOSET has an alcove for the bureau. They were made for each other. The moving guy couldn’t believe it when he hefted it in.

Yes, some things are a perfect fit, fall into their right place.

 

 

Settling in with Ghosts

Settling in. Week number five now. It takes awhile to feel the spirit or spirits of a new place. At first, there is too much bumping into boxes, walls, door jams to hear the stories here being narrated by ghosts and choreographed by shadows.

I lie awake at night and listen to new noises. Which noises are normal and which are not? Gurgling of pipes, creaking, knocking, scratching of branches, flutter of wings against the window. During the day there are hummingbirds hovering over the purple-blue morning glories. Outside the window, the night sky is as inky dark as it gets and I cannot tell what is out there. Suddenly a light goes on. Is it an automatic light sensing an animal, or my neighbor lighting up his room or a car’s headlights from the street? Another neighbor takes a shower and the pipes shudder and shake the walls as he turns off the water.

Shadows on wall

My cats are restless. They rattle the blinds trying to see into the night, jump on and off my bed several times before finally settling in. Yes, settling in. It takes awhile.

I do not believe in ghosts or anything supernatural. Nevertheless, ghosts can exist in our imagination, especially when we move into new homes. They can be remnants of what we imagine happened here – or even what we know happened here. I happen to know that the last occupant lost her job and her dog. She also found a dead cat on this front lawn, which I saw too while out walking. Did her dreams of joy drift away and leave the ghosts of sadness?

Or the opposite. Did joyous people live here – circus performers, artists, singers, dancers, cooks? Their laughter and creativity remain.

Shadows on CurtainOr maybe my new house is purged of ghosts and I can bring my own. What is that dream taunting me outside the window after the sun goes down and before it comes up again? What is that shadow on the wall – branches and leaves reaching toward me with a warning, or an embrace?