Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Anchored



Casa de Mama and the gathering table.

I just unpacked the last box। Whew! The movers came a week ago। It was the day after our memorable road trip through West Virginia, “almost heaven," where Loren’s car died on the one-year anniversary of his death. It’s been a kind of non-stop emotional roller-coaster ever since. Well, actually it began when I had to leave Ukraine in early March. I’ve been going like the energizer bunny.

This past week I've discovered what I left behind two years ago. How easy to forget it all. The furniture, art, possessions, the books, tons of books, an historian’s galaxy. I piled the last 8 boxes (there were over 50) in my closet today because I ran out of book shelves, having left a couple in St. Petersburg. I put some of the books in a box to give to charity.

I've found a place for all my furniture, even things I thought I didn’t want or could live without, like my mother’s French provincial curio cabinet, several old chairs, two bureaus, lots of books and artwork।

This apartment has two large rooms, plus a kitchen, bathroom, nice hallway, and little back porch atop a rickety flight of steep stairs that I use to get in and out. There’s another set of stairs I can use on the side of the house. I have stuff in that little porch. Elissa calls it a “mud room,” but it’s a pretty fancy mud room with that curio cabinet in it! I added a few paintings, too, including a classic poster for the Puccini opera “Madama Butterfly.” My mom sang the arias from that opera, which I loved, sweet and romantic. I called my mom Madama Butterfly. I still think of her that way. They are all together in that little porch space.

How many memories flew out of the dozens of boxes I unpacked, not to mention hundreds of mom’s photo albums and mine from the time my kids were born. Plastic storage boxes filled with momentoes and memories.

I’ve used every bit of space. I’m good at getting lots of stuff into small spaces, a skill that developed when I had an apartment in the Cairo Condo in Washington, DC. Minimalist my style is NOT. I have too much stuff. Eclectic it is, and colorful, bright, bold colors. The walls show it as well, filled with paintings and art, mostly from Mexico, plus four “abstract” works by Mike Adams, my daughter Michelle’s partner.

The most important piece of furniture I have is the large glass dining table in the living room, donated by my daughter Elissa. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. It’s become the family table, the gathering place. It’s in front of a large bay window overlooking the roof tops and trees of Main Street Sylvania. Four of my grandkids can sit on the window seat so we can all squeeze around the table. It’s in constant use. What a joy!

The next most important thing is a little treasure chest of toys that I began years ago, when my first grandkids Julia and Tony were born. I filled it with a variety of dolls, toy cars, games, stuffed animals, puzzles, cards, magnets, coloring books and crayons, and special items I knew they’d like, like souvenirs from my travels. Whenever things disappeared, I added new stuff. All my grandkids went straight for that treasure box, “hidden” under my bed, whenever they came to visit me, wherever I was. Now my great-grandson Philip has discovered the box that I created for my first-born grandchild Julia, his mom! Four generations enjoying a box of little surprises.
When I was a PCV in Ukraine I lived in one room with a bed, desk, and chair. It was all I needed. I think I could do with very few possessions, although what I have adds color to my life, and to that of my kids, who love being surrounded by Casa de Mama. The dining room table and the treasure box would be things I would keep. The rest could go, WILL go, one day. For now, my furnished apartment is a haven, a gathering place, a family home. I’m anchored.
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