What Will the Neighbors Think?

So if you’ve been following the saga of my move, you know we’ve been well-and-truly in the new house for a little more than a week, and my mom has been sick and I’ve been working, and lawn-mowing and one thing after another. Which is to say we’re not that settled in. I settled in as well as I could before mom started moving in, unpacking most of my kitchen stuff and mostly setting up my bedroom and the guest room, about which we didn’t need to make too many joint decisions. Mom hasn’t unpacked much, and hasn’t been up to it (but bless her, she’s got the laundry underway), and there have been other things to attend to, like lawn-mowing and getting her all the way out of her apartment, and six hours in the emergency room and things. We, for example, don’t have books on the shelves or art on the walls, etc. The flexibility of that has been an asset— we’re thinking in some new ways about things— but we look like we’re failing to make reasonable progress.

I try not to measure myself too much by how things look— I know that I’m working hard on it, and on building a culture with her, where we’re in this together and her needs and my needs get met and there’s joy and rest and consolation and comfort where we need to find them. Such things take time, and there’s not a specific deadline for most of this. I’d love to have a housewarming this month, but I think it’s probably too ambitious, and it’s not like I have a pool key, either way. Also, there are things we can’t settle because we don’t have what we need— I can’t set up my upstairs sitting room because I’m missing bolts to put the couch together— the movers handed them to me in the midst of the chaos, and I don’t know what I did with them. I can’t set up the TV in there because I’m waiting on an adapter. We went from situations in which we had medicine cabinets to situations without them, so we’re having to reconfigure bathroom stuff and think in new ways about it. It just takes time.

One of the things that was broken in the house that the seller needed to send someone over to fix was a ceiling fan in the living room. There’s a retired electrician who lives in the neighborhood, and the seller sent him over and said he’d settle any bill that the guy gave him. That was nice of him. The seller told us the retired electrician was the one who broke the ceiling fan in the first place, so it was only right that he fix it. In advance of his visit last week, I pulled together the living and dining room as well as I could to make them presentable (given that we’re still making decisions about things, and mom finds decision-making pretty stressful.) It’s a friendly neighborhood, and I have to assume that he’ll tell the neighbors if the place looks too much like a warehouse, now that the move is technically no longer in progress.

After a lot of rigamarole (technical term), he finally came yesterday. He wasn’t there long before he declared that the attic was too hot to work in, so he’d have to come back earlier today.

Mom’s not a great sleeper and she hasn’t been feeling well, but even under the best of circumstances, this was never going to make the two of them friends. She might be up and around in the morning, but she doesn’t want company. I come naturally by my policy of “if you ask me too many questions early in the day, I’ll just burst into tears.” That’s not how it manifests for mom, but it is what it is. As a stay-at-home mom for the 30-odd years it took to raise my brothers and I, she’s not been forced to live the out-the-door-early life that the rest of us get jammed into, and she’s not likely to change now.

And he wanted to chat. And he made jokes about the things that hadn’t been done “Are you going to have all that unpacked by the time M is home from work?”

Seriously, the fact that he’s still drawing breath seems like a miracle to me, because that’s a dangerous way to talk to my mom.

Knowing he’d be back this morning, we had leftovers for dinner and I focused on getting more of her kitchen stuff unpacked. Together, we have way too well-stocked a pantry, so I’d been putting it off, but I bit the bullet and tried to find themes, last night. It wasn’t bad. Visually, the clutter was reduced, somewhat. We have access to more of our collective stuff than we had before, and have a few more boxes emptied in advance of the recycling coming tomorrow.

But was it really so important for the guy to make us feel like his judgment of our progress was so important? Especially given that he didn’t fix what he was there to fix?


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