Untethering

Where is my tether?

I’m referring, of course, to the cord that attaches my Blackberry to my computer and allows me to have Internet access anywhere.  Once we turn in the cable boxes, we’ll need it.  I can’t find it.

This is probably the 10th or 15th item I couldn’t find today.  On the phone, our lawyer asks for the account number of our mortgage and a copy of our latest water bill.  No problem — I put both of these in a package of materials not to be packed.  All of the things not to be packed are on the bed.  Alas, the legal-size manilla envelopes with these papers never made it to the bed.  Mr. NYer remembered that they’d been left on the shelves in the computer room, which were … already packed.

But the moving guys obliged.  One remembered the envelope and gamely proved the rule that it’s always in the last box.

Slowly but surely, other needed items have disappeared. The sugar bowl, the boxes of tea, the lamps.  The movers believe in minimalism, and we will live that way tonight.  They plan to leave us with one lamp, a floor lamp that we can carry around like a candlestick on steroids.

How did I get here?

On a plane, on Saturday night, of course.  The cab driver, in a first for New York City’s fleetest, carried my bag up the twenty-three steps to my front door.  It almost made me sad to be leaving.  I rang the bell to let Mr. NYer know I was home, then opened the door only to have him grab me and, basically, not let go.  “Thank God you’re home,” he said aloud.

To himself, I think he added, “There’s a lot of work to do.”

And work we did.  Sunday and Monday we made arrangements, wrote lists, and cleared out the rest of the stuff that wasn’t coming with us.  You know how the things you least want to do are the ones you put off until the end?  Well, the end has arrived.

Case in point:  Thirty five years ago, I did a college art history project on the architectural history of Staten Island.  My professor encouraged me to try to get a grant to continue the work, and recommended I work with another student who was a photographer.  That student, who subsequently became a boyfriend, borrowed a valuable book on the small houses of Ernest Flagg, a Staten Island architect, from the secretary of the Art Department.  Fast forward a couple of years, and ex-boyfriend, following the lead of his hero John Denver, decides he needs to live in the Rocky Mountains, buys a used VW bus, puts a camera mount on the roof (I hate to think about what that did to his camera lens), and dropped the book off with me to return to its rightful owner.  I think I made one attempt, but she wasn’t at the college when I stopped by.  And then, life happened.  The book has traveled with me out of my parents house and into two apartments and a house.  I had a child.  The woman died and I read her obit in the Advance.

You might think I should just add the book to my own collection, but I couldn’t.  I stored it in the basement (I know), rather than risk thinking of it as mine.  As many of you know, Staten Island is a small world, so I was not entirely surprised when one of the elementary school classmates of the Abandoned One turned out to be the grandson of the woman who owned the book.  I intended to return the book to them, but it was hardly top of mind, nor was it within handy reach.

Until Sunday, when the Men with Truck came to clean out the basement, and I wound up with the book in my hands.  Did I have the heirs’ phone number?  Of course not; nor were they listed.  But Mr. NYer remembered that Mrs. Heir was on Facebook, and I sent a message.  Monday night she called and, like a repentant sinner, I told her the story of the book that had once belonged to her mother-in-law.  This morning I wrapped it in shrink wrap and Mr. NYer left it at their house.

One item off the list.

Originally, we hoped to have another two or three weeks before the closing, and had carefully gauged our consumption of cleaning liquids, wine and other spirits accordingly.  By Monday, though, we needed to deal with the bottles of ammonia, nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, soy sauce, white, cider and rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and enough seltzer to start a soda shop.  We counted up nine bottles of champagne or prosecco.  And not bad stuff.  Then there were the odd bottles of hard liquor that we rarely drank but that had somehow accumulated over the years:  vermouth, flavored vodka, rum, Harvey’s Bristol Cream …

None of this can go in the car.  We need room for the cat cage, Mr. NYer’s clothes, and other necessities. These are all contraband items for interstate moves.  We’d already filled dozens of contractors or recycling bags, and were trying hard to lighten the load.  The trusty plumbing system beckoned.  And so I began pouring.   Shortly after the first elixirs from the medicine cabinet went down the tube, I looked out the window to see a large DEP truck stopping on the street.  Seems the sewer was backing up into the houses across the street.  Great.  Imagine not only finding that you’re getting a sewer backing up, but wondering why it smells like ammonia.

In about an hour the DEP let us know that the system was running fine, and we could resume use.  Little did they know …

Two days of final cleaning down.  Day One of the move itself down: the house is 90% packed.  Only one item — a globe from a small Ikea lamp–broken.  Tomorrow is Move Day Two: the Loading of the Truck, then the furious cleaning, and tomorrow night the walk-through.  Thursday the closing.  Friday Mr. NYers retirement party.  And then Saturday, we’re on the road.  Just us and the two cats.

Did we remember to keep the cat sedative unpacked?

Getting a Move On …

Yikes — Lifelongnewyorker and Mr. NYer are moving this week!

We’ve been trying to nail down a closing date all week and late yesterday–a Friday–we got the word that it’s either this Thursday or in three weeks.  For various reasons we decided that sooner is better than later.

But.  Lifelongnewyorker is in Atlanta on business.  Mr. NYer just had his last day at work on Friday, and still has to get the Guy With Truck to clean out the basement.  The Abandoned One has moved into his digs in Brooklyn, but has yet to clear out his childhood stuff.  Oh, and how about getting long distance movers lined up on a Friday afternoon when you need them to show up to pack on Tuesday?

Over the phone last night we went into rapid decision mode.  Rather than return to Montgomery, Lifelongnewyorker would book a flight directly out of Atlanta.  Did she have enough clothes?  Yes.  Were appropriate shoes waiting for her in Staten Island?  Check.   Booked the flight for immediately after the final conference session she has to attend today.  This morning realized she only has enough of a prescription to last until tomorrow and will either be without for a week or will need to get a temporary supply.  Called doctor’s office and left incoherent message.

Calls back and forth between Lifelongnewyorker and the relocation folks at work; between them and mover; and between mover and Mr. NYer.  Resolution: mover will be there to pack on Tuesday, load on Wednesday.

Question: What about change of address?  New house doesn’t have a C of O yet, let alone a mailbox.  Call to realtor in Montgomery who advises calling Post Office.  Lifelongnewyorker considers leaving set of prepaid priority mailers with new owners.

Mr. NYer and cats will be returning with her to apartment in Montgomery next week.  Management will need to be advised of pets.

Also, Lifelongnewyorker is remembering that there’s a chicken carcass wrapped up in foil in the trash back at the apartment and really wishes she had brought said trash to the compactor before she left.  Big difference between three-day old chicken carcass and 10-day old chicken carcass.

Then there’s work.  Lifelongnewyorker has phone meetings and projects to work on next week.  Luckily, she has not one but two laptops with her and a blackberry to which either can be tethered.  She also has an air card, but that needs to get back to her office on Monday.  Must remember to send with colleague.

Two laptops?  That should be fun at airport security.

Oh, no — those blackberries?  (Two of them as well).  They were fully charged on Thursday, so Lifelongnewyorker didn’t take the chargers.  Looks like there will be a trip to both AT&T and Verizon on the to-do lists.  Put post-it note on drivers’ license to be reminded at security and look for these at airport.

Set to arrive at LGA about 9:40 tonight.  That gives us two days, one of which is a Sunday, to eliminate everything from the house that isn’t coming with us, pick up all the dry cleaning, prescriptions and whatnot, start at least making lists for change of address, go to the post office, turn off utilities, return cable boxes, clean out the refrigerator, decide what to do with the gas grill (anyone need one?), and finish off any wine or liquor in the house.

Friends may be needed to help with the last item.  Consider Sunday and Monday open house days and stop by!

Rainy Day Saturday Woman

Mostly I’m blithely optimistic about the upcoming changes.   I remind myself occasionally that there will be days where doubts and sadness predominate, but so far there haven’t been many.

Today was one of them.

Things are moving fast and with certainty.  I leave — LEAVE — in just over a month.  The house went on the market last week and,  the day after we began showing it, we had a binder.  I’ve signed the papers for the new job and sent them in. 

This is really happening.  Last night I dreamt about  moving and feeling a profound regret about leaving my house.  In the dream, the house that I was missing wasn’t the house I live in now, or one I’ve ever lived in, but I don’t think that matters.  The night before, I had a more disturbing dream in which I rather light-heartedly killed my mother and then, realizing what I’d done, tried futilely to undo my actions (no fears, gentle readers — she  passed 8 years ago and is safe from my murderous dreams). 

Right now, we’re in a kind of fugue  state.  Today is too rainy to decorate outside for Christmas.  And we rarely put up the tree before December 15.  Two showings were scheduled (we’re continuing to show the house until we go to contract), and neither showed.  I shot off some emails related to The Project for the meeting scheduled for first thing Monday morning to figure out how to control a fire that  flared, of course, on Friday night.  The Project always has fires, and this one might be a conflagration.   

It’s too soon to pack and, according to the various “relocation checklists” I found online, too soon to do almost everything.  But not too soon to start worrying about the details.  How on earth do we unplug all the connections and obligations– from the swim club membership to EZ Pass, doctors, banks and retirement accounts, from volunteer activities and memberships and friendships — and what’s going to be involved in making new ones?  How  do we even keep track of all the connections we’ve built in the course of three decades?  Will we forget something crucial?

On weekends, I prefer to have a to-do list but today there wasn’t a lot to do except wait for the no-shows and wonder whether I’m getting a cold or just having allergies.   I followed my two favorite strategies, in order:  1) Took a three-hour nap in the  afternoon; 2) When I woke, worked on a to-worry-about list.

Hope the sun comes out tomorrow.

The Weight

Ticking items off my to-do list I paused at “paperwork for New Job.”   The large FedEx box that arrived on Thursday was a lot heavier than the envelope I had expected.  Half the bulk was taken up by items explaining life in Montgomery, including the Alabama Driver’s Manual and a real estate magazine so thick that I wondered if everyone in the city was trying to leave.  Was I being counter-cultural AGAIN?

The actual paperwork, although a thinner stack, demanded time to absorb.  This afternoon, as the painters finished up the living room — in a shade that, despite the assurance I got from the gurus at the paint store that Benjamin Moore colors are never discontinued, is NOT the same Oriental Silk I’ve had on the wall that works magically with every item in the room.  The lemony shade that is now on the walls will undoubtedly make it harder to sell the house.  But I digress–I settled in my bed to read through the forms, policies and benefits. 

Which is when I realized that there was a cap on the moving allowance.  In one corner of my mind, I’d figured I would do my best to jettison the obvious jetsam, and haul the rest to Alabama where I could go through it at my leisure.  One of my future colleagues had cheerfully advised me that I shouldn’t worry about weeding out my belongings.  “Big houses are cheap here,” she said, “just bring it all with you!”    

But there, in cold black & white type on the Relocation Policy, I saw ample economic reason to weed, and weed ruthlessly. 

I enjoy weeding.  It’s my favority gardening activity and, twice a year, at the change of seasons, I re-curate my closet.  All my unwise purchases are banished:  out go the shoes whose color I love but which  pinch my toes; into the Salvation Army bag goes the suit with the unfortunate peplum coat; they are followed by sundry articles that no longer fit, recall the 90s too vividly, or have just had it. 

It turns out, though, that my aggressive de-cluttering is limited to my wardrobe.   We have overfull bookshelves in five of our eight rooms.  Despite having adopted the latest audio technology, from cassettes to CDs and MP3, we still possess about 900 vinyl albums.  Mr. NYer hates to throw anything out, and grows visibly despondent when enlisted in spring or fall cleaning.  Our son, the Soon-to-be Abandoned Child, moved out in a minimal fashion, leaving behind all the physical artifacts of his childhood plus three guitars and two amps.  Our basement has the wondrous power to multiply objects while simultaneously making them grimy and damp.  In a mutual bond of  avoidance, we keep it dimly lit and use a machete to maintain a path to the washer.  Lastly, we have a large storage area that runs across the entire width of the house at the back of the attic.  We call it the dark, dark room.  We have no idea what’s in there.   

You can talk about filling a contractor’s bag a day, or spend an evening in front of the TV cleaning out a desk drawer, but none of that is going to do squat to address  the issue of sorting through and getting rid of the  accumulated stuff, which I’ll refer to as the Albatross.  And then there’s the how to get rid of it all.  It’s the wrong time of year for a yard sale, and we don’t have a front yard.  I don’t have time to write clever listings for eBay, Craigslist or Freecycle, or to make the individual arrangements to have Flowerpot Guy pick up all the garden tools.  There’s no market for old books or LPs.  And cleaning out the basement?  A new  definition for eternity spent in hell. Not to mention that every effort to clean out has induced allergies. 

So how do I lose this Albatross?  Is there a diet?

The things to do today

The weekend.  Forget going hiking or taking a bicycle ride.  There are things to do.

The list so far:

1. Wait for the guys painting the living room to return to finish the work they began yesterday.

2. Rent a self-storage place (more on that later)

3.  Sign the paperwork with the realtor to put the house on the market.

4. Clean out some more.

5. Cut back the rose bushes so prospective buyers don’t have their eyes put out.

6. Fill out the paperwork for New Job.

7. Break the news to my hairdresser.

The last item is the hardest.  I’ve been getting my hair cut by this guy for over 25 years.  He knows the weird way the waves start to appear at the 3-inch mark, and the way it curls when it gets longer.  He has helped me grow it long and, when I need a drastic change, cut it down practically to a buzz cut.  About 15 years ago, we decided I didn’t have to give in to my early-onset Irish graying and began to color it.  I almost never tell him how to cut it, or how to alter the shade to fit the season, because his judgement is so much better than mine. 

How will I find a stylist like  that in Alabama?  Will he give me the color recipe?  Will they follow it?  Will I wind up with a bouffant?

Losing Jimmy is more than losing a stylist.  This is a quarter-century relationship.  We’ve both lost parents during that time, weathered illnesses, had major life changes.  We’ve attended parties together, and broken bread together.  He’s come to my house to make homemade pizza.  He’s one of many friends I’ll be leaving.  I dread telling him, especially since, now that I have short hair, he counts on me as a client who comes in every 4 weeks.

Telling friends is hard because it presents emotional issues which I’m trying to keep at bay right now.  I know this is going to be a really hard move at times, but I’ve got too much to do right now.  So I’m putting those emotions in a box and putting it on a shelf.  I’ll take it down when I must — or when the box grows too weighty and falls down on my head.