Friday, September 30, 2011

Thank You

I have obviously invented moving with children. At least, that is how I acted. While it was an onerous process that lasted over a year, the reality is that I sold my home in the worst real estate market in decades, without losing money, and managed to purchase my dream home in a fantastic location for an excellent price through the services of the best real estate agent ever. Overall, I have nothing to complain about.

However, that didn’t stop me from whining about it from start to finish. I have friends who moved while pregnant, who moved across state lines while pregnant AND starting new jobs, and who moved across state line while pregnant AND whose husband’s new job required his overseas deployment to a hot, sandy place. While my husband did change jobs (twice!) during the year, both were at his own choice. Sure, it added to the stress of life, but what doesn’t?

But I bitched, and I moaned, and then I bitched and moaned so more, and then, during the last two weeks, I bored people to tears with the intricacies of environmental law. (Did I mention my dream home came with its own 10-ton pile of contaminated dirt?) I practically put out hourly reports on the status of my packing and unpacking, and acted, as a whole, as if my real estate transaction was of monumental significance to many instead of just significant to me. In short, I was a right ass.

Thankfully, I have a legion of wonderful friends who never complained about my admittedly self-centered behavior. They allowed me to vent. They offered advice, opinions, and options. They cared for and fed my children when I needed time to get stuff done. They acted as lawyers, counselors, design experts, and handy men. They put a beer in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other when the stress of selling/buying was done but the stress of moving/unpacking had yet to begin. They sent encouraging texts, e-mails, and FB posts. They got my kids from point A to point B when I wasn’t able to ferry them myself. They brought donuts. They brought cards. They literally plucked my crying son out of my arms and brought him into his classroom. They brought history books on my new neighborhood. My husband affectionately refers to this group of people as the Gaggle. If it weren’t for the Gaggle, I never would have survived the past year. In fact, without the Gaggle, I wouldn't have survived the past five years. I love the Gaggle

Without family, I wouldn’t have survived move-in weekend. Seeing all of your stuff in boxes, piled high, room after room is both exhilarating and overwhelming. Where the hell does it all go? And how the hell do I put it away without tripping over a kid? Eldest BIL and SIL to the rescue! They took the kids out in style, spoiling them rotten and giving them a day of fun to remember. Youngest BIL and SIL did just as much heavy lifting by literally doing the heavy lifting. Forty boxes of books, six crates of Christmas decorations and several boxes simply marked “misc. attic” were all hauled in during a day of high humidity. Plus, as an added bonus I got to give hours of unsolicited advice to my pregnant SIL. A captive audience! Fun!

So, what have I learned during the last year of my life? First off, that I am incredibly lucky. I didn’t grow up in this area. I only moved here eight years ago, knowing no one and nothing. But now, less than a decade later, I am rich with friends. I have The Gaggle, many of them strangers I met at library story time, whom I could now call in the middle of the night in an emergency. I have people who have helped me in innumerable ways for no reason other than they wanted to help. They weren’t looking for thanks. They weren’t looking for anything other than a way to help a friend. And to all of you, I say thank you. Sincerely and utterly, thank you.

I will now never utter the words real estate, closing, or moving ever, ever gain. You’re welcome. ;)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A House is Not a Home

A little over a year ago, we decided to sell our house. That first moment, when we started to take some of the art off the walls, when we started to put all our books in boxes, and when we started to anticipate moving our family, was when our house stopped being our home.

It’s weird, that first showing, when you realize someone is going to walk into your house, the place where you raised your babies, where you make late breakfast on Sundays, where you walk around naked after a shower, and consider whether they want it for their own. They are going to look at your nursery, with all the animals inexpertly hand-painted on the walls and consider what color they will paint over it. The room you sat and rocked a child in, night after night, for years, is suddenly going to be childless. There will be no nightlight softly illuminating its walls, no music box adding birdsong and falling water to the darkness. I have spent more time in that room than any other, soothing, changing, comforting, loving, reading, and playing with my children. I taught my children that their bedrooms were safe havens, places of shelter from storms, nightmares, and the world outside. My son, with his animals smiling down on him, my daughter, with her princesses watching over her will now have to get used to new configurations of light on their walls, new sounds of night falling outside their windows, and a new path to the bathroom.

Before the endless packing started and the walls started to close in due to all the boxes, I could walk around my house in a blindfold and never bump into a wall. I knew where the furniture was placed, which step was last before the floor, how wide the bathroom door was left open all by sense of touch. I always thought that in case of emergency, it would be effortless to grab what I needed and get out because it was placed in the same spot night after night. How long will it take me to find my way in my new home? How long before I understand its configuration without stubbed toes and muffled curses? When I won’t need to turn on a light to wander downstairs for a late-night drink out of the fridge?

In a home, everything has a place. Your keys go here, your shoes go there. This shelf holds boxes of pasta, that shelf holds the olive oil. You know where to find a flashlight when the power goes out, and how far to turn on the hose when the sun comes out. Right now, I feel like I am living in a really crappy hotel. It has only the most rudimentary supplies, nothing has a place, and everything feels temporary.

While I will miss the quiet stability of this house, I am quite looking forward to the adventure of the new one. The first trip to Target will be epic. After years of bemoaning the lack of counter space, the closeness of quarters, it will be nice to have a little more elbow room. I already live so much of my life in the new town that the move will be more of a homecoming than a farewell.

For seven of the eight years in this home, my job has been my kids. So when we pull into the new one, with real oak floors instead of laminate, with a stone fa├žade instead of siding, with real wood-burning fireplaces instead of push-button gas ones, with windows and skylights and porches galore, I hope my husband feels proud of what he has accomplished for his family. I hope he surveys his expanded little kingdom and is happy. I know I will be. That house, with its unknown corners and undiscovered delights, is going to be our new home.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

And the Best Picture Goes to . . .

It is now time to move on to the best movies, drama category. This one gets tricky. Do I go for movies that were utterly fantastic but that I never, ever, ever want to watch again? Back in college, we did a double header of Dead Man Walking and Leaving Las Vegas. It was the most depressing night of my life, and made me want to both drink and kill myself, but damn, those were good movies. Do I choose style over substance and put Snow Falling on Cedars on the list, which I still remember as being the most beautifully shot movie I have ever seen. I wanted to crawl into that cinematography and live there forever. Do I stick to the official Oscar winner list, or veer off into Independent Spirit and BAFTA winners? How about movies that were perfect upon first viewing, but I know would fall apart upon repeat viewing such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Inception? Or do those two go into the best movie, sci-fi category? Does animation count? If so, then WALL-E deserves a spot on the list. Do I stick to made in America, or do I include foreign films? Decisions, decisions.

In the end, I picked movies that stuck with me, like a good stew, adding weight to my life. They may not be your choices, but they are mine.

(I will note that like most of my top comedic choices, my husband either hates these movies or has never seen them. How we have survived our entire marriage with only one television is a mystery to both of us.)

So, in no particular order, here are my top five movies, drama.

1. Heavenly Creatures. I still remember watching this for the first time. (Hi MJ!) It is visually stunning, emotionally upsetting, and features Kate Winslet’s debut performance on film. It is based on a true story about two teenage girls who formed an unusually strong attachment to each other and committed murder in order to keep from being separated. It sounds blah on paper, but in execution, it is fantastic. Trust me.

2. Schindler’s List. Obviously, this movie is just a tad depressing. A bit, really. Some of the scenes are almost painful to watch, they are so horrifying. However, the performances are all around stunning. Ralph Fiennes made being a sociopath look good. Plus, I think a large part of my love for this movie comes from Liam Neeson as Schindler. In every scene, he looms large, he cannot be ignored, even just sitting quietly, he is riveting.

3. The Godfather, Part II. This movie is better than Part I because of Fredo. Plus, there is no whiny Italian bride wasting any of my time. God, that woman was shrill. The second movie in the trilogy (which should have been the last), really gets you invested in past Vito and present Michael and shows that it really is all about who you can trust.

4. Goodfellas. The end all and be all of mob movies. If the Godfather is the epic tale of one family’s rise to prominence in the world of the mafia, Goodfellas is the down and dirty story of one guy in the mob. Sounds similar, but they couldn’t be more different. Joe Pesci manages to be horrifying and hilarious all in the same line reading, leading to some incredibly quotable lines of dialogue.

5. The Age of Innocence. I hemmed and hawed about this one, but I watched it practically on repeat and loved it every single time. If Joanne Woodward could narrate my life with the same dry wit and eye toward detail, I would be a very happy person indeed. In fact, I think it is the narration that sells it for me. It’s a simple story about repressed love in early New York society, which sounds tedious, but it actually quite torrid. No one gets nekkid and the ending is heart-breaking, but the actors sell it, even Winona Ryder.

So, once again, agree, disagree, just watch them at least once.