Days before we all became aware of COVID19 and started practicing social distancing, we moved back into our house after nine months of renovations. While the world has changed so much so rapidly that I could almost swear we moved home months ago, we’ve actually been home for less than two weeks. And our builders only finished up two days ago – or maybe three? I honestly cannot remember.
The last thing the builders finished was the basement, and the renovations meant that we lost some of our attic storage space. Taken together, this means that we have not been able to unpack nearly as much as we would have liked to because we really needed the basement space for a) things that used to live in the basement and b) everything else. Mostly, we’ve been moving boxes to new temporary homes, cursing a lot, and swearing that we are just going to donate everything that’s still in a box so that we don’t have to make another decision. Things are so bad that I might have even taken that last step if only any of the charities were open.
Our house is still complete chaos.
While I am very, very far from a neatnik and can tolerate a fair amount of mess, I have realized over the last few years (ok, truth: after having children) that there is a level of clutter beyond which I get pretty stressed out. We have been there for weeks. No matter what I clean or move, when I turn around, more awaits me. Boxes are everywhere, taunting me, daring me to open them, their unknown contents laughing evilly, waiting for me to despair. My senses are tuned too highly: every noise bothers me, every touch sets my skin to alert (yes, I’m rashy); my tastebuds, oddly, dull & I sneeze often. Many days, I hide in our bedroom to avoid the onslaught. Sometimes I have trouble breathing.
Andre, however, is largely unphased. He spends hours in the basement moving things from the front to the back, from the floor to the shelves with dogged determination. He is calm, careful and confident, knowing that all of this will eventually be sorted out. He finds a happy medium between motion and perfection. He just keeps working, even when I try to pick a fight. He is measured where I am not.
This afternoon, trying to calm my senses, I steal a quiet moment in the sundrenched space of the new kitchen. I sip my tea, concentrate on reading, on writing, on breathing. At the other end of the room, hidden behind the kitchen island, Andre and our younger son begin a project. Andre tells him about the proverb “measure twice cut once.” They practice cutting; they roll something out. Oh! They are making a peel & stick chalkboard calendar for our family schedule. I overhear them measuring and measuring again. “Ok,” says Andre, “We need to cut at 24 and 7/8 inches.”
I am incredulous. 24 and 7/8″? Seriously? At this very moment in our house I cannot reliably find my bathrobe. Our kitchen things appear to have multiplied while in storage. Our younger son’s room is literally knee-deep in stuffed animals; the 18-year-old exchange student is on hour four of a “socially distanced” walk with his girlfriend (so let’s just acknowledge that there is no distance left there, thus undoing all of our work); I think my older child may have been playing video games for 48 hours straight; there are boxes in every single room of our home and, oh, yes we are in the middle of a global pandemic and my husband – a man I married on purpose – is cutting something with a 9-year-old so that it measures exactly 24 and 7/8 inches?
I start to chuckle deep in my belly. I feel a smile threatening to become a full laugh and press my lips together, hard, to stop it. My eyes crinkle as the smile fills my cheeks. Of course he is. In a world filled with chaos, Andre figures you might as well get the measurements right. When they get that calendar on the wall, it will fit perfectly, and it will stay there for years, I bet.
Suddenly, I can breathe a little more easily. Might as well finish up this post and then, I think I can tackle some of those boxes again. I’ll leave Andre to finish up in here. He’s got this under control.