and this past week i have been in the middle of taking our life apart: piece by piece, picture by picture, item by item. i am calling it "the great dismantling." rooms are being slowly stripped of what has made them warm and appealing and personal...and, most of all, ours. i feel like i am suddenly living in someone else's house. surely all these open spaces and clean surfaces don't belong to the mcnatts! how did all of this happen? a couple of days ago, bella was very focused on building a block tower in the family room and when she finally did look up, i saw her eyes scan the room in bewilderment. "uh, mom... how come our house looks, um...um...um... um..(searching for the right word) different?" all that was left in that room was furniture. i had dismantled the decor right around bella and her blocks. one of sarah's best buddies, weslieanne, came over yesterday and when she walked in, i saw her startled expression. she just gasped. "oh, your house!" she said, looking like she was about to burst into tears. feeling teary eyed myself, i hurried to her and said, "oh honey, i know...just don't look."
in this process of removing all the stuff, i am, however, making my husband a little mad. he keeps telling me, "sweetheart, let the packers do that...you don't have to move all this stuff....that's what they are supposed to do. that's what they are being paid to do." (the packers come next tuesday). and then i smile at him and take another load of pictures and nicknacks to the dining room. (the dining room is my home decor holding spot for the moment). but you see, i have two reasons for doing what i'm doing: A. it makes me feel better (i.e., in control). and, B. we are moving to a furnished rental -- and though that might sound easy at first thought, it is actually complicating things just a bit. all of our stuff isn't going to be packed up and moved to one destination. instead, we are planning to take some of our stuff (oh, let's say about 15-20%) to the rental and everything else will go into storage for the year.
it is an interesting business thinking about what a family of seven might need or want for the next 10 or 11 months of life. interesting and exhausting. my brain is clearly on overload as i consider item after item. would bella like this baby doll or that baby doll? would connor like this board game or that board game? wait! connor doesn't even like board games. do we want to put up these family photos or those family photos. see what i mean? try doing that room after room, item after item. for the past couple of weeks i've had four piles: throw away, give away, rental house or storage. it has been an interesting process to say the least -- especially when bella decides to rearrange my piles. (she is now officially at preschool splash camp this week!)
when we visited the rental house in minnesota last month, i was able to get a pretty good idea of what we'd need to bring. the house is mostly furnished. and the truth is, i could get by without hardly bringing a thing, but for those of you who know me, you know that's just not happening. i don't want to live even 10 months in the midst of someone else's stuff, i want to put our mark on it. make it our home -- even if it is just a rental. yes, this requires more work and extra planning. yes, it would be a thousand times easier to just tell the movers to pack everything off to storage. but, strange and impractical as my plan may be, i am choosing to make things a bit more complicated now, so we can feel a little more comfortable later. i want my kids and husband to walk around the house and see things familiar and known. i want our family photos and special whatnots nearby. maybe the kids don't care about changing out table lamps, dishes and doo-dads, but i do. so, yes, this is not entirely about a mother serving her family -- some of this is about me and my issues. i won't try to hide that fact. i like my things. i do. and i'll be honest, i have even gotten a tiny bit excited about our own little chotchkies scattered around that really cool rental lake house. the wanna-be-decorator in me has lain awake many a night already thinking about where we'll put things and how i'll rearrange things to fit our family. come on, you know i have!
but i have to tell you, this process has sort of unearthed a not so pleasant side of me. see, my plan has been to pile all of our favorite things into the dining room - living room of our home. all of our favorite photos and pictures and artwork and baskets and blah, blah, blah. all of our favorite home decor things. when i am working in there, amidst all of these treasured items, my inner julie andrews starts to hum, "these are a few of my favorite things." over the past few days, the room has gotten more and more crowded. like you can barely walk in there today. it reminds me of a garage sale gone wild or a flea market on steroids. i have tried, from the beginning, to put the most favorite things to the left and least favorite to the right, but the line has grown quite blurry and now when i walk in there, i am simply overwhelmed. how in the world am i going to figure out what goes with us and what goes to storage for a year? because here's the deal, i love it all. yes, all of it. the unpleasant, ugly truth which has been clearly revealed this week is... i love my things! there, i've said it. i've admitted it publicly. uuugh. i am not supposed to love things like i love things, but i do. i sat in the middle of this room yesterday trying to decide between family photos and i about became unglued. i don't want to exile any of them to the darkness of a cold storage warehouse. not even for a year.
eons ago, when i was a high school english and theater teacher, i directed the play, "you can't take it with you." i had the most amazing cast of students that year and with those talented kids and the message of that play, it was absolutely one of my all time favorites. kaufman and hart's "you can't take it with you" first appeared on stage in 1936 and was immediately a huge hit. in the story, alice sycamore and tony kirby are going to be married, but before they say "i do," they must introduce their families. tony kirby comes from a wealthy, pretentious, buttoned up kind of family, but alice's family is anything but. the sycamores are a collection of interesting and eccentric members who are all busily devoted to pursuing their unique (and i do mean unique) passions, with little regard for decorum or details (and probably not decorating). grandpa vanderhoff presides over the entire clan and has plenty of wise words scattered throughout the play. at one point, he tells the uppity, wealth seeking mr. kirby, "maybe it'll stop you trying to be so desperate about making more money than you can ever use? you can't take it with you, mr. kirby. so what good is it? as near as i can see, the only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends."
now i am not sure how theologically sound all of grandpa vanderhoff's words are, but his "you can't take it with you" message certainly is. in fact, it is right out of the bible. "do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." (matthew 16:20 ). does that mean i can't have my room full of favorite decorating items? no. i am pretty sure it isn't about our stuff, but more about what our stuff means to us. it is both a reminder and a warning -- the stuff is just stuff. don't elevate it. no one is getting packed into their coffin with cash or with their art collections. i'm sure some have tried. in fact, i did a little research (in my spare time) and stumbled upon lonnie holloway. in 2009, 90 year old lonnie holloway's final wish before dying was to be buried in his beloved 1973 pontiac catalina. he was in the front seat, his most prized possessions were in the back. lonnie holloway tried to take it all with him.
i do realize i am only heading to minnesota, not to my final resting place, but the message is still worth hearing. stuff is stuff. in luke, Jesus tells us, "watch out! be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (luke 12:15). funny that He would use such strong words, "watch out!" beware...be careful...be cautious. funny, but appropriate, Jesus knew the power of possessions. He knew how hard it would be for all of us to extract ourselves from the doo-dads and delights of this earth. we all have our thing -- our things. for some of us it's shoes ... and for some it's books... and for some it's pets... and for lonnie holloway it was a 1973 pontiac catalina.
speaking of things you can't take with you...the moving company gave us a list of items which they won't be able to take on the truck next week. apparently it gets a gazillion degrees inside and since it will take almost four days to travel...there are just certain items which won't make it, i.e., anything that could melt, explode or die from heat. so... this morning, my brave husband and somewhat willing son, left atlanta with the pets and the plants and the chemicals and the candles and the crayons and well, just about anything i could cram into our yukon xl. it was officially "a scene." seriously, this morning's loading could have easily been a reality tv show. i kept bringing my beloved plants and flowers out and rick would just look at me. he was trying so hard. he was being so good. i know he was muttering under his breath...i caught something about "crazy woman..." but he was willing. he knows this move isn't easy for me. he also knew that when we realized we might not be able to fit my sweet olive tree into the yukon, the tears were on their way. he fit the sweet olive tree into the yukon.
they are facing a 20 hour drive with a 150 lb. golden retriever and a meowing cat in the back. they will stop tonight at a pet friendly hotel halfway. the best part is rick went ahead and booked two rooms: one for he and tyler, and one for the pets! hilarious. my husband really does need his sleep, and though he loves our pets, there was no way he was sleeping with them after their close quarters all day in the car! the animals were carefully sedated for the journey and as they pulled away from buttercup trace this morning, i had to wonder if maybe i should have gotten a prescription for my husband, as well.
while we were in the midst of our loading this morning, i had to get something out of my oldest daughter's room. as i tiptoed into the room i found her and her two bests friends asleep on the bed. all three 16 year old girls sleeping sideways across the queen bed. these 3 girls who have been buddies since first grade. oh my. my heart began to ache. i stood there staring at them (yes, i know that is somewhat creepy)...and thought to myself, "what i really want more than anything is to cram these two girls into the car." i'd easily leave all the chemicals and plants and even the flowers behind if i could bring emily's two best girlfriends instead. i closed the door quietly and wiped away the beginning of tears.
and so the menfolk left a little bit ago. and i am now back to working in the middle of my self-imposed flea market with all of my favorite things. not really feeling so much like i want to hum any julie andrews at the moment. but i'll continue to putter around this shell of a house today, all the while reminding myself i really can't take it all with me. and some of the illegal stuff we weren't able jam into the yukon will be left behind...and some of the stuff in my favorite things pile will be, instead, banned to storage for the year...and somehow, somehow, somehow this dear old house will be packed up and moved to minnesota next week...
and grandpa vanderhoff's words to mr. kirby will sink in even deeper, "you can't take it with...the only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends."
"set your affection on THINGS ABOVE, not on the things of the earth." ~ colossians 3:21