Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Two weeks ago I became a home-owner.  The feeling was like emerging from the pool after a series of underwater acrobatics.  Slightly disorienting, but with a feeling you went in the right direction.  Of course I’m not completely on dry land; now I will also have to tread water in order to maintain my property (and my mortgage).  But I can still inhale deeply, tilt my head back, and relax in the knowledge that I own the space around me.  While the native American in me has an inherent disdain for the term "mine", as far as legal rights go, I have to admit it's pretty sweet.

We are almost unpacked.  Only a few odds and ends: a couple of things for storage, a disassembled lamp patiently waiting on the hearth, our paintings.  When I have no stuff, moving is a breeze.  Point in case: when I moved to Japan out of college, what little stuff I had was thrown into a suitcase, and the rest was sitting in storage in a house owned by my best friend's sister.  Well, actually… there was also a box or two in the basement of a different house - a cozy house in Cambridge I had lived in with four roommates.  There was also all of my possessions at my mom's house in Cincinnati ... but if I had been able to ignore that stuff for four years, I could easily ignore it for another one or two.

So, my friend’s sister, the house in Cambridge, my mom’s house, and my suitcase.  That was it, the sum total.  The night before moving to Japan (or maybe the morning of - I can't remember), I packed the suitcase, crammed other necessaries into a carry-on duffle bag, and boarded a flight for another country.  The song the “Molly McGuires” strikes me as appropriate for that particular set of circumstances… since I’ll never see the likes of that again.

The part that resonates with me still, as I grow older and reflect on the inevitable accumulation of stuff, is that besides deodorant and the infrequently used personal item or two, I did not lack for much in Japan.  This was surprising, since I had given the whole process about as much foresight as my decision to follow my high-school girlfriend to college in Boston, giving up a full ride at a state school, my friends, and my parent’s support (not to mention the hefty post-graduation sum my dad was offering me to stay in Ohio).  During the course of that adventure, similar to the move to Japan, the stuff part seemed to work itself out.

For my Boston migration, I had to take my stuff with me in a two-door car, in a single trip.  The move was supposed to be, and was in fact, for four-odd years.  Because it was against my parents' judgment, it was one of the only moves where I didn't have the good will of other to rely on for help.  Fortunately, I had two things going for me: I still had a car, and I had almost no stuff.

Of course, like most privileged first-world brats, no stuff meant that my two-door car was practically ready to pop. Indeed, had you tapped on the hood hard enough, a computer cable might have snaked out of the rear bumper (I'm sure it would have appeared as disquieting as it sounds).  Said college-era computer rested in the bucket of the passenger seat, above a nest of speaker wires, documents, and toiletries.  Upon arrival at my apartment in Boston, I found that the can of shaving cream tossed haphazardly into the mix had been completely emptied, and over the course of 12 hours the gel itself had either dried or frozen, since my computer, which was stuck to my backpack, which was stuck to my toiletries bag, was coated in a rock-hard layer of the stuff that didn’t come off until a thorough scrubbing.

In some past / future life, I must have either been a sailor or a Star Trek ensign.  In those times, storage space was pretty unnecessary. Besides a closet for those spandex-inspired uniforms (certainly in the Star Trek life, and possibly in the sailor life as well), and a pad-locked drawer for the taser (because every taser should be pad-locked), storage space was pretty unnecessary.  If you did happen to need something specific, that's what the replicator was for.

What you didn't see were huge suitcases where they kept all of their earth-stuff that they quite frankly didn't need.  Whatsmore, I am fairly certain in that past life, like this one, I was quite content.  Perhaps because of that (can I blame it on a past life?) when I have to move stuff, actual stuff, and there's no getting around it, I am just about the most inept, disorganized person you have ever met in your life.

At this point, when I look around me, there are certain things that I’m less flippant about than I was before.  For example, the composite countertops are treasured.  The two sinks, with their constant smirk of privilege, are appreciated.  The sofa, my comfortable chairs, the teal stool I splurged on for my wife at the antique store in Brooklyn for her birthday… these things I can’t just throw in a car.  In fact, the whole home, including the immense amount of energy that went into acquiring it, making it legally mine, and working to make it perfect, is something I couldn’t pass off to a friend or flippantly disregard (at least not yet… I still have a few years before the hobo urge strikes me and I pack up that polka-dot rucksack).

In the meantime, I should really unpack the rest of my earth-stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting... your article seems like an innuendo about the encumbering qualities of owned property. It bespeaks of anxiety, I think. I would try to look at it more positively; your act of settling in a house is an affirmation of your marriage and your local community. I've settled down in my life for much less than that; and I can't boast of either of those gifts. Over the last year in Norwood I've been reduced to courting solitude. I wanted and still want so much more. One thing we have in common is that we're still accumulating "stuff" as you put it, and I suspect we're doing it for the same reasons: to catalyze our commitment to and acceptance of our respective situations. Here's hoping I survive spring and summer.