Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Finding center

I have found that sometimes the best progress in unpacking happens around dinner time.  I begin to cook, and my three big guys, being hungry, stand by waiting.  I discover that I need a particular utensil, and suddenly Shawn, David and Jon are all out in the garage, ripping through boxes, searching for that-which-will-occasion-dinner-to-be-served.

This was not intentional on my part, initially.  But human nature being what it is, I am not making any promises that I will refrain from capitalizing on the phenomenon. 

The upshot, however, is that there are a very lot of open boxes, half rifled through, sitting in the garage.  Sometimes we find things like the original electric knife.  It has been fragile ever since, years ago, a former co-worker of Shawn's yanked the blades out of it without pushing the release button, cracking the casing (this was at a company Thanksgiving luncheon).  We babied it along, and actually we bought a replacement and ought to have thrown it away.  But it still worked, so we didn't.  The Bad Packer threw it into a box, loose, the blades loose as well, and fortunately we saw it splayed among "kitchen misc" before we had reached into the box and cut off our fingers by mistake.  We found all of the parts, and set them gently aside on top of a different box.

Yesterday I emptied the last two boxes in our bedroom.  I hope they are not the last two boxes of stuff from our bedroom, because important things are still missing.  But they were the last two boxes that were occupying our bedroom, and it was a huge feeling of relief to get them out.  Triumphantly, I carried them out to the garage.  The moving company tells you to empty the packing paper into the largest boxes and then flatten the smaller boxes, so I emptied the first box of its packing paper and then looked around the garage for an implement I could use to cut it down.  My eyes fell on the electric knife blades, and I used one--it worked beautifully--to slice the packing tape.  Then I turned to the second box, stuffed its packing paper into the same large box, and went to grasp the blade to use once more.

It was gone.  I could not find it.  I gazed around at my garage full of open, partially unpacked boxes containing my pulverized former belongings next to large, unpacked boxes overflowing with used packing paper.  I surveyed flattened boxes, garbage cans, furniture that does not fit into the house, bicycles, shoes, and even genuine garage items.  Also my Odyssey van.  I could not turn around.  Forlornly atop a nearby box sat the electric knife base and its one remaining blade, only one; the set was no longer intact.  Nothing was intact.  My life was not intact.  The bottom dropped out of my stomach.  I felt as though I could not breathe and then I started to sob, the undignified sounds echoing among the cardboard boxes on the concrete garage floor.

I cried until the sound of myself made me sick, which did not take very long.

Jon kindly helped me find the missing knife blade.  It was on top of the van.  I cut down the box, laid it on the pile, and spearheaded a shopping trip during which, among other things, we bought a toaster oven because I cannot find the toaster, and I got a pedicure because I have not been able to find the things needed to clean up my nasty, peeling toenails.

This morning I awoke, and my sheets were clean because we have a washer and dryer now.  My bed was centered under the ceiling fan, and my dresser was centered across from the foot of my bed, because our boys helped us move them around last night.  I felt better.  And Jesus reminded me that He brought me here.  This is the house He led us to, when He shut all the other doors.  God is with me, and He will never leave me nor forsake me.  It is going to be ok.

It is going to be ok.

Or, as they say here, "You're fine."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Homemaking. Or not.

So yesterday I was frantically filling out some last minute medical forms for Jon's college.  They asked for my husband's occupation.  And then they asked for mine.  I felt quite a pang as I wrote, "homemaker."  Ha.  Homemaker indeed.  Adrift in a sea of boxes, overwhelmed, exhausted and unmotivated.

I had a home, but it was torn apart, literally, thrown unceremoniously into boxes by "professional" packers high on marijuana.

One of our packers, the highest one with the utterly blank blue eyes, was Really Bad. His idea of packing:
  1. Stuff some packing paper into bottom of box.
  2. Up-end organized drawer into said box. Continue up-ending organized drawers until box is almost full.
  3. Stuff some more packing paper over the top.
  4. Seal box with packing tape and label as "misc." ( I am really beginning to despise the word "misc.")
The boxes (and everything else) landed here in Illinois, too much stuff to fit into the new house, even after we gave a lot of things away to friends, held a garage sale, made multiple trips to the Salvation Army and the Rescue Mission, and many more trips to the dump on Rock Cut Road.  There is still far too much stuff.  Eighteen years of cherished memories rooted out and smashed into boxes.

This house feels a little bit like a beach house, except for all the boxes and packing paper everywhere, and the way the furniture awkwardly doesn't fit.  But it feels a little like a beach house, and the way we go to the store, bring home bags of food that is not from Wegman's and try to cook it in whatever way we can improvise, that feels like a beach house too, sort of.  This morning I opened the refrigerator door and had the involuntary thought, "I think I would really like to go home now."

But home isn't there.  The house is... I think of it, empty, waiting for the new owners to close, and how I hope they love it.  But the contents of home have all been yanked out and deposited here for me to sort through.  And I am not any good at sorting.

Homemaker.  I wish!

Monday, July 8, 2013

1,000,001 things to do

There are about 1,000,001 things I should be doing right now.  Of course.  But at the same time, as I live my last days here, I feel desperate to write things down.  Argh.  Nobody is dying or anything, but I feel this urgency to write while I remember, lest it all be lost.

Yesterday afternoon.

Before anybody left, I said, "Group hug!" and we all got into this big Carpenter huddle with our arms around each other's shoulders.  I was engulfed in the largeness of my family, both corporately and individually (my head barely crests Jon's shoulder).  We hunkered in all close to each other, feeling the love, and then Shawn started praying.  I can't even remember what he prayed, but by the end we were pretty much all snuffling, and even DJ had to pull his sunglasses over his eyes as he extracted from the embrace.

We did frantic pictures, trying to capture memories that we crave with a starving kind of hunger.

 Don't you just love Jonno's argyle socks?
And Lulubelle's spiffy running shoes?
And the way DJ clutches his sunglasses?
And Shanny's braids? 

The mama and the papa on the front porch.

Shannon lost her bank card, and I, I found it.  I, who never find anything.  There was much rejoicing and amazement.  (I may or may not have done an inelegant dance.)

DJ and Lulubelle left first; he drove her back because the Amtrak wouldn't have gotten her in until 3 a.m. and she needed to work in the morning.  His jaunty little old sand-colored Corolla turned the corner at the stop sign, onto Pinegate, and we waved, blowing kisses.  It was sad, but Shannon was still by our sides.  We would see DJ in a couple of days again, and Lulubelle at the beginning of August in our new home.

Shawn and Jonathan worked on putting the tent back into the tent box.  Shannon and I went to Target to get her a new billfold for keeping track of her bank card.  Afterwards, she and I toured the house together and took a few more frantic, desperate pictures:

There is so much pathos here, so much childhood remembered.

It was time for Shannon to go.

She was a real hero.  She smiled big and hugged us, and we hugged her back tight.  I packed up a Styrofoam cooler with leftover party food for her to take home.  She got into her little gray car, turned it around with a five point turn, and like her brother, drove jauntily down the road, waving, turning right at the stop sign.  One last time.

One last time.

I watched and waved until I couldn't see her anymore, trying to memorize the sight, catalog it forever in my feeble mind.  Then her car was out of view.  I began to drown in salty tears and a massively runny nose.  Sometimes it is very hard to breathe.

We returned the tent, the chairs, the tables, the roasters.  We dropped Jon off at the grad party of one of his school friends.

When we got home, just the two of us, Shawn said, "I am going to get into my pool and go for a swim, because this is one of the last times I'm going to have a pool to swim in."

So he and I swam on that hot, humid evening while the sun set.  As the sky darkened we could see into the lighted windows on the back of our house.  Lulu's room with the yellow stripes she painted.  The warm maple cabinets in the kitchen.  The collage of graduation pictures on the family room wall.  I thought back to other evening swims when I had looked in at my kids watching a television show, or afternoon swims when Schubert had perched, concerned, on the back of the sectional to keep an eye on our safety.

I thought what a dream it has been to live here, a strange surreality, a Minnesota girl transplanted into the east, never quite belonging but coping and learning and making friends, building a life.  I thought of how I'd never even dreamed of having a pool, and here we've had one, all our own, for a season... and enjoyed it!  I watched the sun set between the trees, close, one block to the west, a fiery ball sinking in pink sky between black, leafy branches.  I wondered if I will feel more like myself in the midwest, after we move, and if this life we have lived in New York will seem like it wasn't even real at all, a dream interlude, nothing but the time I raised my brood.

And then the mosquitoes came out, and we went inside and got back to work.  There are 1,000,001 things to do.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Last Grad Party

Jon, on the occasion of his graduation party.

I now know how it feels to be overflowing with thankfulness.

I have felt thankful before, as in, happy and relieved and grateful.  Often I feel as though I ought to be thankful.

But this weekend I have felt thankful in the fullest and truest sense of the word, pressed down, packed in and flowing over.

We didn't get many pictures, but trust me, Jon's party was a great day yesterday.

I am thankful to God for, among other things, the weather.  It has been a strange and very wet summer.  It rains every day, violent downpours that chase each other up driveways in waves and splatter in watery designs across windshields, splashings punctuated by thunder and lightening sometimes close enough to make one's hair stand on end.  And after the five, or fifteen, or forty-seven minute deluge, the sun comes out again, hotter than blazes, with thick humidity that makes one feel a little as though pneumonia were creeping into the lungs.

In the midst of this, Shannon and I ran errands and got wet, day after day.  Yes, wonder of wonders, Shannon has been home all week long, helping me.  We withstood much rainwater on our heads, and I prayed and prayed for a decent day for the party.

We arose on Saturday morning to see that it had rained in the early hours of the day.  We proceeded to prepare for the party, setting up tents, tables, chairs.  Chopping fruit, icing bottles of water and cans of soda, arranging platters and heating up the hot food in roasters.  And do you know... the weather held out!  It was really nice, all day long, right through to the end of the party.  After the last guest left, we took down the tables and chairs, stowed them in the garage, lowered the tent.  We went to bed.  In the morning, we arose to discover that it had rained in the night.  God is so good.  He gave us this window, this beautiful, marvelous, miraculous window, in which to celebrate Jon.

I am thankful to God for the weather, and also that our nuclear family, the perfect six of us, were all together in our very special, half-a-dozen way.  Lulu came home on the Amtrak, all by herself, and it was perfect and fantastic.  The bedrooms were full, and each bed was slept in by its exact and proper sleeper, our last shebang together in this, our family home of 18 years where the young ones were raised and Shawn and I transformed from young adulthood to the farther side of middle age.  It has been our last time all together, just us, here, in this house, and God has blessed us so richly.   So richly.  Such rich blessings can make me cry, but they are good tears.

I am also thankful for friends, thankful for them, and thankful to them.  I am thankful that when there is not a single blood relative within hundreds of miles, these people have stood in the gap, praying for us, laughing with us, sometimes crying with us.  We've shared driving responsibilities.  We've shared meals.  We've shared deep secrets.  We've shared parenting tips and recommendations for dog groomers.  New friends, old friends, neighbors, school friends.  And the glory of it appears when they come to our party and unexpected people know each other and I look out and see people connecting, conversing, having a really nice time.  God is so good.

I am thankful for friends and relatives who could not be at the party, but who prayed for me.  Going through things, trying to pack and clean and prepare, occasionally I would happen across an old letter, which I would read, and so often I found within the envelope the words: "I am praying for you."  Texts, too, would pop up at the most perfect times, reminding me that I was being uplifted.  Thank you to those who prayed, and to the Lord who heard and answered.

I am, above all else, thankful for Jesus.  Because in the midst of everything, I know that He will never leave me or forsake me.  He loves me.  He is working with me and on me.  Even if the moving truck crashes and burns and the house we bought turns out to be a mold-ridden death trap, God is in control and has a plan for me.  He is my security.  My home is not my security, nor my bank account, nor even my family.  God is my security, my Lord, my everything.  And the best part of that is this:  nothing can ever take Him away from me.  Nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord.

We are moving in a couple of weeks, and it is OK.  It is all going to be OK.  Because when we get to the other end of this, Jesus will be there already, ahead of us, marking out our path.

Happy graduation, Jonathan.  We are, all of us, on to new horizons.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

maybe it's going to be ok

Initially when Shawn accepted the job in Illinois, we thought it would be so nice to be able to finish out Jon's final year of high school and then move.

Apparently I had not done the logical-thinking-about-upcoming-life-events which would have shown me that planning a move at the same time as planning a graduation party was probably Not a Good Idea.

As of right now, the move is sort of on hold (I will pay for this later).  We are trying to get the party underway.  The house is full of dirt and dust, the kind that gets disturbed when you start opening up and purging 18 years of stored memories and partially full paint cans in the basement.  I am living in faith that somebody is going to help me get this under control at some point.  I have prepared a lot of sloppy joe meat.

After doing strenuous party shopping in the messy rain on Monday... on Tuesday I realized that I had mislaid my master list for Jon's party, the list that had everything broken down by what to do each day until the big event, things to buy, things to prepare, etc.

Shawn, working at home, was on a conference call. In silent tears, I wrote him a note in my most tragic handwriting: "My list for Jon's party is GONE!"

He hung up the phone at the end of his call and looked at me kindly. "You mean that list you asked me to scan, because you said it would be the end of the world if you lost it?" he asked.

Yes. That list.

He printed me a new copy.

Sometimes I am more ahead of myself than I realize, and I just have to love the guy who helps me get there.