Late last spring the moving truck pulled up and the house split at the seams and vomited piles onto the patio, the sidewalk, the neighbor's yard, the street almost immediately. It had drunk too much of our worldly possessions and its petite body was rejecting them. The truck from our storage unit place was supposed to be there but it couldn't be so the mound of stuff we thought we wouldn't need or couldn't handle now grew and grew out in the open, on the sidewalk and the grass, my shortcomings as a housekeeper, as purger-in-chief, as a person splayed out for all to see.
A year later, the piles are smaller. We foisted some extra stuff upon people who may or may not have wanted it. We downsized the storage unit, though the guy tried to scam us--Call as us and he has no smaller unit; call as an unnamed stranger and he has one right away! We became acquainted with the 20-minute drive to the closest Salvation Army drop-off point. But they're still there. Tomorrow while we are out someone will let some strangers in to inspect us, I mean the skeleton of our existence here. They will peer around the piles and under the dust and past the books to see if they could carve their own spot here. I've cleaned up my bedside table for them--it's comically clean, you should see it! Three books, a Moleskine of course, and a pen daintily perched. They may peek into my closet and things will fall out on them.
The someone who's letting them in is making quite a show of not inconveniencing us, of how very many times she told them they couldn't come by (as in, not at the very moment they first saw the sign, and not very early the next day either). I feel expected to produce tidal waves of gratitude, although I just want to point out that I put my piles in order for your convenience, lady. I actually don't care what some stranger thinks of our hoarding. We're a testy bunch right now, I guess. But I've cleaned, because the less showings the better.
I've never shown a house, and the only occupied house ever shown to me was this one, just more than a year ago, occupied by a nice lady with a dog and dusty rose curtains in the dining nook and lots of Asian-themed decor. Fresh back from that East, I averted my eyes (too soon, no nostalgia yet). She left the curtains when she moved out. And trash cans and a chair and the note from the back of a painting that was done by someone's great aunt in 1914 or some such.
I know I protest muchly that I don't care what strangers think, but in the morning I'm still fussing about and making sure the closets can close and why does my husband own a bowtie and why are all of my stubbornly-too-small swimsuits here and not in storage, and really why keep them at all because every day they're disintegrating more. Focus. Our his'n'hers closets have tie racks built in. I keep maxi dresses hanging from mine, and they ensure the closet doesn't close. And part of me doesn't care what they think and another part would really like to only do this neatening nonsense once.
"Wow," the owner said when he came by one time, "You've really made it your own!" (It was his newlywed house, and he and his wife got a little smiley and reminiscent about it.) That's what people always say, just like they always love our dark wood Ikea bookshelves that in their fifth house are coming apart at the seams. And I always wonder what that means, whether it's good or bad, because surely everything is a judgment of some sort? We make it our own. There's snot on the windows, nail holes in every wall, scratches on the floor where I sat in that faulty chair that last lady left while endlessly feeding baby Oz. And all the drawstrings for the Venetian blinds--horrible things that Venetians surely had nothing to do with--are tangled up and out of reach, because curious babes and because 15 months is not long enough to uninstall and reinstall them.
But I can't think of a lightbulb that is currently burned out, and that's something, right?
And there's our name hanging over the fireplace, there's that random step down into the kids' room that Oz obsessed over facefirst til he mastered it. There's the ceiling fan in the kids' room that we don't use because it would hit Eva's head as she climbs into bed, and there's no configuration where it won't. And there's the back porch that a surprising number of friends sat on with us, old friends and new, sometimes passing through and sometimes there just for us which always flabbergasts me. And then there's the teal bathroom--actually, amazingly, they're both teal--that my friend's kid panicked in because it's so narrow, kind of like how I felt about this house when I first walked in all jetlagged. But turns out it's hosted sleepovers and kid-races and soccer games just fine.