We moved home from camp on September 29th, and I’ve spent most of the past three and a half weeks moving objects from one place to another and back again. It seems impossible that I’ll ever make room for the several carloads of belongings that were moved to camp gradually over the course of our four-month stay, but then returned home all at once, dumped unceremoniously onto every flat surface in the house.
When I was growing up we spent the whole summer at camp, just as I do now. Once I was the only kid left at home, my mother traded in our old station wagon, and she and I made the 300-mile move from Connecticut each June in a mid-sized sedan.
We brought a few changes of clothes and some books and magazines, and not much else. It was all we really needed. My mother had “camp clothes” that she left in the closet each fall (a few are still there), and the kitchen had been well stocked, over many years, with dishes and cookware. Anything too worn or chipped or dented to be used at home—the mismatched flatware, the electric frying pan with the leg that collapsed, the hand mixer that overheated three minutes before the seven-minute frosting was done—was “good enough for camp.”
If there’s any disadvantage to living just three miles from camp instead of 300, it’s my tendency to move our entire lives, twice a year, back and forth over that stretch of road. After all, it’s only three miles. It’s close enough to bring all my favorite cooking gear—and this includes not only my fancy cookie scoops, Pampered Chef measuring cups, and best paring knife, but also my food processor, canning kettle, and 25-pound KitchenAid stand mixer.
And that’s just the kitchen stuff. Despite the fact that camp has its own tool closet full of hammers, screwdrivers, and handsaws, and even its own circular saw and electric drill, most of our hand tools and small power tools manage to migrate there over the course of the summer. Then there are the stacks of books we think we’ll finally find time to read, the games we don’t play at home but think we might at camp, and the knitting projects I end up moving home again, unfinished, at the end of the summer.
While moving from home to camp is something I look forward to each spring, moving back home again in the fall is definitely not. Settling back in at home is always an ordeal, despite my annual vow that I’m going to take advantage of the move to figure out what it is we really need and give away, toss out, or pack up everything else.
I start out with the best intentions, and some years I even make a little bit of headway. This year, for instance, I went through my closet and sorted out six big bags of clothes and shoes to donate. It felt like measurable progress, and I vowed to go through everything else in the entire house as soon as possible. I figure I could donate at least half of my possessions and never even miss them, and I’m sure I’d value the extra space more than the stuff that used to occupy it.
Plus, freeing up all of that space is bound to free up psychological space, too, and with my mind free of useless clutter, I’ll get so much more writing done!
But, since my successful clothing purge, I’ve been a bit stuck. Most areas of the house are still in Chaotic Transition Mode. It’s hard to concentrate on big sorting and purging projects when I really should be writing, and hard to concentrate on writing when I know there are big sorting and purging projects to be done.
Even though this particular mess is behind my back when I’m writing, I still know it’s there, and that if I turn around, this is what I’ll see:
What I need is something to get me unstuck, and I think the dream I had early this morning just might do the trick.
It was my son Will’s voice, coming from the hall outside my bedroom. It was pitch dark, Tony was still sleeping soundly, and even the cats hadn’t yet begun their get-up-and-feed-me-now assault.
“Wake up!” Will said again. “This is the day you’ve been waiting for!”
As soon as I opened my eyes, I realized I had been dreaming, that no one had called to me from the hallway, that Will was still asleep in his room at the other end of the house. But for about five seconds—long enough for me to start trying to remember what was special about today, and why it was the day I had been waiting for—it felt very real.
It’s not my birthday, or any other holiday. We’re not having company (thank goodness, since my writing room is also the guest room, and the bed is at the very bottom of the pile in the photo above) or going anywhere or expecting a big check in the mail. The weather is just about as dismal as it can possibly be.
But, apparently, this is the day I’ve been waiting for! How can I argue with that?
Before I got out of bed, an idea for a short story had come to me, straight out of nowhere. Then, after breakfast, I moved some junk around and found, hidden underneath, not only the tops of both the kitchen and dining room tables, but also the kitchen counter and part of my desk. (Baby steps.) Tony and I made a definite plan to tackle the basement tomorrow, since it will still be too wet for him to work.
One day soon, I may even tackle my writing room, with the hope of at least getting it back to where it was a year ago: