December 16, 2013


Unpacking has gone slowly, strung out now over several months. The first week was a rush of getting the necessary things situated, but after the kitchen, clothing, bedding and other furniture found their new places, things slowed dramatically. I went through the odd box now and then, mostly to thin things out, but I didn't do much of anything that would be considered decorating. It was probably a combination of things, but now that I had this new place, I sort of hesitated to make it "mine".

Naturally, part of it was because much of those things stored away were from a house shared with another. Each item had a certain not-so-ephemeral emotion memory attached to it. I sorted out the things that had little or too much attached, and put away the stuff in the middle. Boxes began to disappear, but nothing really came out.

When I hosted a couple of friends for book club a few months ago, I finally threw three or four prints on the wall so it would look like someone actually lived here. Outside of the painting of Sierra that Holly gave me, the few things didn't really reflect anyone in particular. Someone lived here, but it wasn't clear who.

I made plans to print out some of the ten years of digital photos, to get them out of their sad purgatory of being stored away in bits and bytes, never to be seen. It is no way for a photo to live. I spent an evening a while back copying some into a "to print" folder, but the size of the task was somewhat overwhelming. Like many of those boxes, the computer folders held memories of their own, and I set aside the project to be worked on later.

I invited my parents over for dinner this past Saturday. They had offered dinner at their place, but I wanted them to come over for a couple of reasons. I wanted them to see the Christmas tree I had put up, the first in a few years. That was its own adventure in memory mining, but I am really glad I did it. I did it for myself, but I sort of wanted someone else to see it, to make it real and share in the Christmas traditions. The other reason I invited them over was to kick myself in the butt to get the place looking like something beyond a faceless (messy) hotel room.

Friday, I opened that neglected "to print" folder and spent several hours adding to it, digging through pictures over the last few years. Even staying away from most of the stuff before 2009, the folder was soon overflowing and I had to start picking and choosing memories all over again. The looming dinner deadline fortunately cut short the time to second guess. By evening I had most of the prints in frames and had a few on the walls. It eventually grew too late to be hammering nails into shared walls, but even before I quit I know I wanted to get more photos printed.

Saturday I finished round one, then made another trip to Kohl's for 60% off frames, and to Costco for prints in under two hours. I split the afternoon between hanging pictures, prepping dinner and cleaning up after both projects. I finished up a half hour before they arrived. I actually fell three nails short of finishing, but in a little more than a day I went from no photos on the walls to fifty-six (yes I just counted).

For a while I hesitated to put anything on the walls. It is an apartment, a rental after all, so was it worth sinking nails into the walls? It was the same in San Diego. I wasn't sure how long I would be there, so it sort of felt like the walls should match that uncertainty. I was staying with friends, so the living situation seemed even more temporary, but eventually pictures went up and it felt more like home. I don't know why it took months to remember that lesson, or to realize that even though I am renting, I may be here long term. With lots of pictures up, it now it feels more like home, more like me.

Another lesson learned and remembered is that making lighter connections does not make it any easier to move on. It doesn't spare the pain of leaving some place or someone. You might as well risk sinking some anchors in. You can almost always patch the holes if you have to.

We ended up having a lovely evening. The pictures led to stories old and new, as did the ornaments on the tree. Home can be anywhere I suppose, but it has to be something you create and carve out. The welcoming in of someone to share in it seems to complete the picture.

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