Moving Day Episode I: Keys

Key day. That glorious day when we’d finally get the keys to our shiny new house. We had a grand plan for key day. It was a good plan. A well thought out plan. The universe and its perverted sense of humor of course had a different plan for us.

THE PLAN: The keys to the new house were going to be locked in the garage and we’d get a text with the garage door code when the house was ready for us. Kris would pack up the barbeque, our bed and the dogs and meet me at the house when I got off work. He’d grill us some steaks to be eaten over the sink, and we’d have dessert I picked up from Papa Haydens on my lunch break. We’d get one quiet night in our fabulous new house before we started the actual move. It was supposed to be a brief, romantic evening.

THE REALITY: Just before heading to the new house with the packed up car & trailer, Kris called the cats inside. Coming inside when called has been a daily ritual for these cats since they discovered the magical sunny land of Outside. Nac decided, for no reason we’ve ever figured out, he didn’t want to go inside. Sure, sure, he’s a cat, so of course he picked the worst time to be randomly inconvenient. I think Murphy might have been giggling nearby and enticing Nac into teasing runs with tasty metaphysical treats. Kris spent an hour trying to bring him inside for the night instead of driving to our shiny new house when the text came in.

On the other side of town, I left my desk right at 5 super excited to head over to our house. I got in my car at the top of the parking garage and quickly discovered that the employee gate was broken. Everyone (employees and guests) had to go through the single pay-gate. This caused a fantastic 20 minute parking-jam which I have never seen before or since and left me quite literally trapped in the parking garage. 10 minutes in I stopped being angry and just started laughing while I beat my forehead against the steering wheel.

I somehow arrived at the house first and it felt like Christmas morning. I opened the garage, retrieved the key, unlocked the door, and found the cleaning crew manager was still there. The previous owners had very kindly hired a crew to clean the house from top to bottom so everything would be spotless when we took possession. They didn’t have to, it was just a really thoughtful gesture. It went a little… wrong though. Somehow, the crew had shattered a ceiling light fixture in the living room. I like to imagine they were having a lightsaber fight using their brooms and someone jumped to avoid a low cut by a mop and accidentally speared the light fixture on the upswing. In an attempt to repair it, they’d run to home depot, bought a replacement and installed it before I arrived…but it really didn’t match the other fixture. They were both glass, attached to the ceiling and had brown as part of the color scheme, but that’s really all they had in common. Accidents, happen, they’d done what they could. I was trying to hold on to the Christmas feeling when she showed me the refrigerator.

The fridge had no main shelf. When they removed the shelf for washing, it had slipped out of her hands and shattered on the kitchen floor. Of course no one in town had a replacement, so they’d already ordered it and it should arrive soon. Sometime in the next week soon. Did I mention that Smart guys family was going to stay with us for the week of the move to help? So 6 adults, 1 toddler and 6 dogs with an only partially usable refrigerator during a heat wave was … problematic.

Looking into the future 24 hours: We discovered they’d cleaned up the small glass pieces with rags that they’d rinsed in the kitchen sink. Filling the drain with hundreds of tiny bits of tempered glass just the right size to cause the garbage disposal to seize. My mother in law and I spent 2 or 3 hours over the next couple of days slowly pulling out shards, moving the manual bar, grinding glass, pulling out more shards, over and over and over until it finally worked.

The cleaning crew manager was so distressed by what had happened that she insisted on cleaning the window sills of the entire house to make up for the inconvenience. No, that doesn’t particularly make sense, but she really felt she needed to make it up to us. While she cleaned, we unloaded the first batch of stuff from our cars. When we finished, she was only half done and we were so hungry that waiting for the bbq to heat up was no longer a safe option.

Instead, some very patient friends took us out to have dinner at a neighborhood place: I remember that the food was tasty, but couldn’t tell you what I ordered. I remember a margarita glass the size of my head, but I don’t think it was mine. There was salsa, so there were probably chips…. For all I know our whole group was abducted by aliens and flown to Costa Rica for and intergalactic dinner on the beach. Dinner was tasty, our friends were very kind. Probably no aliens were involved.

When we arrived back home at our shiny new house the manager was gone and the window sills were in fact very clean. We rambled around the house opening things, flipping switches, poking buttons and closing things for an hour or two. We were so tired that I was half convinced that someone was changing the location of the light switches right after I left each room. That’s not true. I was completely convinced something was changing the location of the light switches right after I left each room. Those switches didn’t stop moving around until we’d been in the house for a couple of months.

We fell into an exhausted heap on the futon and laying there, in the dark, queued the inevitable ridiculous panic attacks that punctuated the night. “This house is huge and weird and not our home and.. and.. and…” zzzzzzzzzzz “Oh my god, where are the water shut offs, what if a pipe spontaneously detonates tonight. We won’t know where to turn it off! The house will fill up with water and we’ll drown!” zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz “Was that sound someone breaking in? Did I lock the door? Doors? How many doors to the outside are there? Do the locks on them work? Did we actually try the keys in all the locks? What if the neighbors still have keys to this house? We’re going to be murdered in our sleep by the serial killer next door!” zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz “Did I just hear a squeak? Was that a mouse? Rats? Have racoons figured out how to open the basement window? Do raccoons carry rabies or hantavirus? I don’t think they carry bubonic plague. Please don’t let that squeak be an opossum. They’re cute until they smile, then they look like Satan’s favorite pet. How do I find a pest control company at 3am?” zzzzzzzzzz “It’s going to be 102 tomorrow while we’re moving. Do we have an air conditioner? Is it electric or gas? What if the family moving out broke a gas line and didn’t realize it? Are there smoke alarms? Do they have batteries? Wait, gas is CO, do the alarms in this house even check that? My inlaws are going to find us dead and cherry red in the basement tomorrow… huh, wouldn’t have to go to work tomorrow if that happened.” zzzzzzz

Like it always does, dawn eventually happened, light came streaming through the strange new windows and most of the worries drifted away. Well, they drifted away after I checked every dark corner by cell phone light for critters and water.

Stay tuned for Episode 2: The weird stuff is past us! Moving in is going to be easy! Hahahahahahahahaha #Facepalm

Circle of Life

When I’m forced to witness that whole ‘Circle of Life’ crap at high speed, I expect Lion King music at least.  If the universe can’t supply that, I’m going to need an ice cream sundae, a lot of hugs and a flapper dress.

My favorite aunt turned 85 last weekend.  I was going to race down before work on Monday and decorate her breakfast place with balloons, but instead I got a text on Friday that there was going to be a party on Sunday.  Since my husbands family was spending the weekend with us and helping us paint every-freaking-thing in the house, the timing was inconvenient.

But: Favorite aunt.  85 years old.  Yeah.

Instead of painting walls Sunday morning, I found myself snuggled up at the computer with my 4 year old nephew playing Guild Wars.  I steered our character around with the mouse, while he carefully found and pushed on they keyboard (ONE time) the letter or number I called out.  Together, we vanquished monsters, helped farmers harvest crops and explored the virtual world for about an hour.

A few hours later, I headed down to my aunts retirement facility to be a part of the other end of the spectrum of life.   We spent a little while decorating the social room under the erratic direction of the 6 residents scattered around the room when we arrived.  After we’d made the room suitably festive and garish, my aunt was wheeled into the room and immediately harangued by this guy I didn’t recognize.  He was tall with a full head of iron grey hair and a lean, hollow frame that outlined how muscular he must have been when he was younger.  His plaid shirt was snapped neatly up to the collar and matched the turquoise and silver ring that covered the entire first joint of his middle finger.  He and my aunt started the kind of rapidfire back and forth harassment that sounded like something out of a buddy-cop action movie.  If anything they said had been between strangers, there would have been flying fists and thrown chairs.  Instead, it was hysterical, naughty, and I’m positive it was ratcheted up to 11 because they had an audience.

As I walked around handing out diabetic comas in the form of sherbet filled punch cups and slabs of cake  overflowing the confetti patterned paper plates with enough icing to fill a pothole, I heard the funny old guy talking again.  He was looking down at the blue plastic party table cloth and said “Thats what the ocean looked like the day we bombed Hiroshima”.  And just like that, he had my full and undivided attention.  I knelt down at the end of the table and listened until my knees went numb and he was done talking. Every once in a while one of us would ask him a question and he’d be off on another fascinating story about his life.

In the Navy during WWII, the day the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, he was on the ocean.  For 2 hours afterwards, he said the ocean was as flat and still as a table top.   He remembers animals from the islands being blinded and deafened.

He described the day he and his two buddies were manning one of the big guns on their ship during an attack.  They needed a different kind of ammunition to shoot at the planes and he was the one that ran below decks to get it.  When he came back, the giant gun was split in two and both of his buddies were dead and blown off the ship.

Not long after that, when he left the Navy, he bought 12 military jeeps still in their crates for $100 each and had friends truck them to where he sold them for $500 each.   He’d been in trucking before the war and still had friends in the business.  He remarked in a very irritated tone that you can’t even get those jeeps for $1,500 now-a-days.  I quietly wondered at the… “logistics” of a dozen jeeps owned by someone in Hawaii making their way over the ocean to the continent where they could then be trucked “somewhere”.

Back stateside, he started working as an animator for Walt Disney.  Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, he worked on all of them and he liked Walt Disney.  He loathed Walts’ brother – who took over after Walt died.

He worked in Hollywood for years.   His best girl is still Linda Carter – he has a signed picture of her on his wall today and swears she winks at him every time he walks past it.

When he was done with his cake and punch, he told my aunt happy birthday again and wheeled one of the other residents back to her room on his way.

After he was gone, I talked with some cousins I haven’t seen in years.  The trio of sisters are all retired now and having grand adventures they regaled my aunt with.  One of them drove a horse drawn wagon across Ireland – camping each night with people from around the world.  The horse was uncontrollable and they remember him only as ‘Red devil’.  Another cousin Volkswalked in Europe, Ecuador, every US state and she’s almost completed every US State capitol. All three have been visiting family across the country.  They brought my aunt her high schools’ yearbook from 1943 and we looked at  all the pictures of her husband when he was an athletic and very handsome 18 year old.  The whole conversation was fun, funny and filled with a zest for life.

As I was driving home, I kept thinking about my aunt and the man whose name I forgot to ask.  They aren’t angry about slowing down and getting old.  They’re present, and filled with treasured memories.  Even the memories that aren’t joyful have the weight of making them into the people they are.    My aunt likes hearing about my adventures but she doesn’t need them to live vicariously through.  She’ll tells me that she’s had a full life and a lot of memories.  She doesn’t regret anything because she seized every moment: every opportunity to experience life; every chance to meet someone new or try something different.  I grew up delighted by watching her horrify our family with her adventures and shenanigans.

When she moved into a retirement facility, she gave me one of her flapper dresses with a matching hat.  At some point in her 50s she discovered Jazz festivals.  That led to her and her best friend learning to make gorgeous flapper outfits complete with hats, boas, feathered headbands, ropes of pearls: the whole 9 yards.  They traveled all over the place wearing their fancy duds to dance to live Jazz. One of my earliest memories of her is at a Jazz festival in Old Sacramento.   A few days a year, OldSac packs every building, stage and alleyway with bands that play late into the night.  I remember being up long past my 5 year old bedtime and wandering from alley way to alley way seeing my larger than life auntie dressed up as a flapper as our guide to Jazz.

Her favorite phrase is: “Well, it’ll be a new experience”.  From the tone of her voice, I’ve never taken that to be defeatist or depressing.  I’ve always heard it as a celebration of life and gathering in its fullness – there’s always value in a new experience.   At the very least, it will be interesting, but until you’ve tried it, you won’t know if it will be spectacular.  That horrid phrase ‘It is what it is’ sounds like its antithesis to me.

So what about us my friends?  When we’re 85 will you look back with me and rejoice in all the things we did or bemoan all the things we could have done, but didn’t?  Put on your flapper dress or fancy duds, lets go find some shenanigans to get up to.