Of course, there are things that have not yet surfaced: the tea kettle is still missing, and with it the coffee grinder. Q's beautiful wool beret is nowhere to be found. The four cats made the trip under duress to begin with, and Gypsy left in disgust the next day, turning up at the old house half a mile away. Today she's missing again, so we'll have get a lift over there and bring her back.
But we are here, snug in our little house. Really snug: it is less than half the size of our old one, necessitating a general increase in marital forbearance and also a revival of our rhumba skills, upon which we must draw whenever we meet in a narrow hallway. Triage continues apace, and I find it much easier to dispense with things now that we are here than when we had all the room in the world.
The bicycles needed tuneups, and will be ready by Friday. After that, our independence from the internal combustion engine will be much greater than it is now, at least until it snows, when I guess we'll be back in taxis. The adventure upon which we have embarked --a fairly radical shrinking of our carbon footprint -- coincides with more orthopedic longings for a space that better suits our waning abilities to keep up with the hardware of life. None of this would not be possible if we didn't live where we do, a place where both buses and trains are within walking or biking distance.
There are at least two ways to look at everything. Leaving a beloved house is hard. Not having a car is hard. Not being able to do things that used to be easy is hard, too. But the downside of all these things is not the only side. Because nesting is fun. Making things beautiful is fun. Strategizing about sustainable transportation decisions is fun, too, sort of like doing a puzzle -- what's the best way to travel here or there? Does the train go there? What is its schedule? Can I make the connections? And then you can sit and read a book while someone else conveys you.
Many people, upon learning what we are doing, have muttered something about thinking of downsizing but not being ready, and then trail off in mid-list of all the things they would have to pack up if they did. I am never sure what would constitute being ready. Eager? Excited? Thrilled? Maybe you wait until all your stuff just disappears one day, and now you dont have to worry about packing it? Or maybe you become ready when you're just too decrepit to resist. Are you not ready to think of the future until it has become the present? I hope not, because by then it's too late.
My take? Do it before you're ready, whatever that means. Change your life before you have to. Do it while you can manage your own affairs -- don't wait until your children have to do it to you. My thirty-odd years of ordained ministry has been carpeted with families impaled suddenly upon choices between bad and even worse where their elders are concerned, all because those elders refused to acknowledge the realities of what happens when time passes. By making no choice, they chose hardship for themselves and also for their children. It didn't have to be that way.
Anna cried a little on her last visit to the old house. I did, too. "But, you know," I said, "This is easier than if you and Corinna were doing this by yourselves and it was because I had died."
She nodded. I looked around the room at the old wallpaper we probably should have replaced years ago, at the curtains that wouldn't be coming with us, at the four poster bed upon which we lay, a bed so old its mattress has to be specially made -- no standard modern mattress will fit it. It would dominate the tiny bedroom in the new place, I thought, and said so.
"That can be good," Anna said thoughtfully, "You know, a focal point."
A focal point. Exactly.