Living in-between

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May 21, 2002 // UPDATED 1:20 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Julie Landsman
Julie Landsman

Amid an anxious dog and an anxious husband, sorting through life before moving Downtown

The sign is up on our front lawn, the house looks immaculate, and the Downtown condo on Washington Avenue North has sunshine streaming through the skylight now that the atrium has been started.

I should feel somewhat relieved. The cleaning is over, the throwing out is done, the piles of books given away, the old notebooks from college days 30-plus years ago (emphasis on the plus) finally discarded.

There is a trimmed up, fine-tuned feeling about my life at this moment. I know what is valuable to me (my poetry collection will be moved intact to our new place, my collection of jazz CDs will go along with us) and what I do not need to own.

I can do without the novels I liked but will not read again, and can finally give away the clothes that are two sizes smaller than those I wear. I have accepted the fact that I will not fit into them again. Someone might actually be able to wear a size ten little black number with a tiny skirt. I never did like to see 60-year-old women in tiny clothes anyway, so I have kept the long skirts and large, flowing pants that add to my dignity as a 50-plus (again, emphasis on the plus) woman, teacher, writer, yoga practitioner and bread baker. By the way, the yoga mat comes along and the bread-baking machine will not be purchased until after the move.

At the moment, however, with a husband jumping up to remove an infinitesimal piece of lint off the carpet and a dog who is trying to decide between sitting on command and collapsing on the floor in confusion, I am wondering why we decided to move at all. (There is no rationale for deciding to train our dog at the same time we put our house up for sale. Don't ask.)

It is fragmenting to feel out of your home but not into a home yet. It was like this 25 years ago when we moved from three blocks away to where we are now. Then our son was only 7, our dog was a beagle and even more neurotic than our present belgian and I was working in the cities at a demanding job in a school for kids in trouble. Our marriage, our dog and our son survived those times, so I figure we can survive these.

Someone asked me if I felt sad when the sign went up, when the book club on our block planned to take a September "field trip" to our new place to meet, or when we stop in at neighbors' houses to chat after a walk by the river. I don't have time for that sadness yet. Right now I am simply keeping the counters immaculate, the bed straightened and the towels neatly folded on the racks in the bathroom. (Does anyone actually live like this? With magazines in perfect piles on the coffee table, books on shelves and all lamps with working bulbs?)

Someday, I am sure, when the "sold" plaque hangs below the River Realty sign, and the papers are completed, I will try and articulate what it means to actually leave such a sweet place. My son in New York has said he will even write a testimonial about how great it was to grow up here.

Right now though, I have to put liver snacks in a plastic bag and take Louis out, stopping every few steps when he pulls on the leash. For now, I have to think of something we can cook for dinner: something that won't smell fishy afterwards and is done in a few minutes so we can coax the dog in the car and head off to wait while another couple tours our rooms. For now, I am too busy to become nostalgic about leaving.

Actually, one of the few places I do feel settled is on Washington Avenue. Last Sunday, I noticed a new wall has gone up, saw the beginnings of the bookshelves, imagined my poetry collection just there, in that spot where the sun is streaming across the floor as a window is hoisted up to its spot. The little deck is assembled too, with just enough room for a table and chairs, coffee and a fine novel I did not throw away but decided to read for a second time.