We are our Fathers. And our Mothers. And all of history is written in that. I thought that earlier, standing there on an unfinished floor. At one time, I may have been embarrassed by my own Father’s unfinished plywood floors, but now I appreciated the utility of my own.
Kept meaning to post the other night. Then I got lost telling my wife about my dirty dreams and unlocking the mysteries of the universe. The coyotes howl and cackle often enough, I can hear them out the window now. It’s a strange injured sound. You can imagine them hopping around, fighting about something. Then they go quiet, back on the move prolly. 11:39pm-3/23/17
On an unusually warm February day, I stood there taking it all in, the mounds, the glowing embers of the fire pit, encircled by a background of fluffy grey ash, almost blue. It’s odd, mostly alone out here, there’s still a sense of being right in the middle of it. The sky fills the space, cupping it upside down. Open, expansive sky. Should make you feel little, but instead it makes you feel big. I’m thinking about that and I hear a rustle, and twelve or more deer go running past in the distance. I’ve never seen a herd or pack or whatever you call it of deer like that before.
It feels then like I have done more in the last two months, then I have done in the last five years, and that includes starting a family with a 2,4, and 6 year old as the result.I wonder who I am becoming?
Flashback, December 23, 2016, 5:45 AM. It’s still dark out, but the street lights and reflecting snow keep it all pristinely illuminated. It begins to push a fresh layer of sleet. I drag our queen-size, foam memory mattres, by myself, out to the truck. I have to stack the bed way too high, on the box spring and the kid’s beds. I can barely get the tarp to cover it and it’s a freezing bitch to get the strap down. The tarp is an impediment the rest of the drive, requires multiple stops on a slick highway to readjust it. And what does it matter I must think then, as it all comes down, dragging it along concrete.
I stuff it so full the dogs barely fit. An absurd sight of degeneracy the whole thing makes. After being told by our Realtor, that the Buyers have somehow rejected our request for an additional hour (my wife with insanity taking hold agreed to the absurd closing time of 10AM) I had a full on Joe Pesci style melt-down. The Buyer still showed up after, while Brit took a load to her Mom’s, and we took our extra hour. As I simmered, sweeping my old floor, hissing and guffawing at the sight of the new notably empty, and expensive model truck, the absurdity of the whole thing fractured the mind and ego. I had somehow slipped into a whole other reality. One where we didn’t occupy this house which had become such a stabilizing and perfect thing.
We got out though. Left a rug and other miscellaneous which we randomly recall now, never knowing if the thing got left behind, or is somewhere here at the new place. When we finally met the Buyer, he seemed bashful. Said take all the time you need to clear out. No need, we said. It was fine. We were moving on. The dogs and I drove off, never looking back. One because you shouldn’t at moments like that, i.e. Lot’s wife, and also because nobody could move, nor see out the windows or rear.
I took a sharp turn, about a mile away. Dumped everything on to Old Boy Dante. Thank god The kids were with Grandma. Brit was depositing our paltry cut and staying there for the night with them. That next night they came out to the new place, and began the Great Christmas Squat of 2016-2017, which lasted until January 23, 2017 to be exact. This was the “No-Net”, am I a crazy person? holiday event.
I couldn’t help but note the thematic irony of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on the radio, as I did my last minute shopping in the city I had just fled. And straight out of a Dickens plot, the delay in our highly anticipated, but murky future closing date, was due to a delay in “original documents”, as they were in transport to a party in England. Thank you for your patience. The sellers were sisters, this and the talk of deeds, and inheritance, peeked a slight suspicon that this may have been a very bad idea.
I operated with a strange working numbness. I forgot to mention this whole time the whole clan was battling the flu, and the night before the 23rd I had done an epic back and forth from the new house to the country house, over three hours of driving and unloading and reloading the truck in the icey night. Just brutal.
We bought our house on a contingent (based on the sale of our house) contract, which we knew (thank you Google) was a complicated and perilous way to go about your real estate transactions. We doubled down on the madness, by renting the house for a month before we bought it. This was the purgatory phase of this ordeal. We were technically able to occupy and store our things, but until it was sold it was a pretty grey area concerning what if any improvements we would want to do. We attempted to align the closing dates, but keeping in mind the holidays (so many damn holidays) things could get backed up.
The house, our 1900s era farmhouse now, was, to put it politely, in rough shape. Mouse shit. Cobwebs. Bubblegum stuck to the floor. Dirt and dust and grime on everything. Half finished remodels. The thermostat was stuck at sixty-two and the old girl whistled. And the flies…I was not familiar with the Cluster-Fly before the new place. Apparently they plant themselves in the dead things and dirt, and camp out in the tiny spaces and cracks of your windows and trim. They like the southern facing windows for heat, and unlike the common house fly they are not all pesky and up in your business.
Instead their annoyance arises with their proliferation. I began the counterattack with the vacuum and then Shop-Vac, but they returned with regularity. We continued on to chemical warfare and then their bodies shaded the plywood. Effective, yet shocking. We settled on invisible glue strips which go on the windows, quite helpful actually, but more morbid.
I feel like I am highlighting the negative, more for the drama then the reality, because the truth is there were moments and displays of tenderness and family that made the darkest aspect nothing in comparison. Christmas morning, a table strewn full of hastily arranged lights and new treasure. Highlights, a telescope, a drone, massive Avengers Lego set, with tiny Ant-man. Chay, my 6 year old, took the move and transition to a new school like a champ. Just overall, the kids provided the crucial child-like perspective which can take things for what they are, the interest value of the New, and the pleasure of the little things. Sure, the house sucked we could all agree on that, but what about the adventure!
All five of us for a month slept in the one semi-finished bedroom in the house. Mom and Dad on the floor, in the previously dragged foam mattress (our old box spring never made it upstairs). The kids tucked in cozy behind us, elevated on their beds. We even got used to their snoring.
The house was awful, but I slept like a rock. I found the remoteness comforting. We remained torn between the desire to the own the place and make all our dreams a reality, and the fear that somehow the whole deal would fall through. Supercharged by the anxiety that we had just made a bad, rushed deal on our old house. We also couldn’t help but note that Jan. 12th would be the one stipulated month of rent in our contract.
This whole time the amount of work we are facing becomes clear. How much really needed to be done to make it livable. We stay positive though. We remain dirtier, more inconvenienced, more stressed, but still happier. We make it work. Use the laundromat. Eat a lot of take-out. We are told the 18th, not great, but let’s do it. We take a breath, then here the day comes and whoops, Dickens, those darn documents got lost on their way from England. We’ll try again next week.
….to be continued
In the next installment…