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June 18, 2010

The Apartment

There are three candles in tiny blown-glass cups atop my old TV set downstairs. I lit all three at 8:55 p.m. and sat on the sofa. And I was happy.

Pleased with my home. Happy in my surroundings. I have only lived here since September of 2009, and here I am nine months later finally happy in a place I will likely move from when my lease is up in three months. This is my life.

When I moved I knew that a new location did not provide instant happiness, I have read enough self-help and done enough navel-gazing to get that memo. But still inside me I assumed a change of location would be just what I needed. It was just what I needed to get out of the old location, but like the saying says, you take yourself with you. I came along with my closet and cats and shoes.

It had no pantry. I complained about that. It was dark. The building next door looks right into my windows. There are people on both sides, I can't vacuum at midnight anymore. It leaked when it rained. this broke, that broke. Complain, complain, complain.

And all the sudden I had this new element -- time. I spent all day vacuuming, I got the stairs one by one, the bedrooms, the vent in the dryer. I LOVE to vacuum. And I finally hung all my paintings, installed the two hanging lamps in the bedroom, magic-erasered the spots off the walls, wiped down the whole kitchen top to bottom, put up some art in the downstairs half-bath, cleaned all the toilets, dusted, cleaned out the old magazine pile. I lit the candles in their little cups (dusted just hours before, shined up and gleaming) and I realized I love my home.

I did not have to buy anything or go anywhere or re-arrange the furniture or make a wish list. All I had to do was clean and hang and sort and dust and arrange. I already have the pieces. I just needed to plug into them.

That's the rub. You have all the pieces, you just need to dust them. My neighbors have a dinner party and I love hearing the glasses tink against one another, I like the laughter heard across the alley, the helicopter hovering above over traffic, the sounds of a city. I never feel truly alone in this apartment, shelved in on both sides by living, breathing neighbors, neither of whom I have met. When you live so compactly you keep your privacy. I like the way we're all so quiet and polite to each other and guarded. And I like hearing the windows shut, the baby next door cries, the people in the building across the alley shush the dog.

I don't own a home. I own the stuff inside it. I pack it, cart it, ship it, move it, carry it, arrange it, dust it. Can anyone ever own a house? Or does it own you, telling you to fix this, caulk that, mow the lawn? I have never owned a home. I only know how to own my stuff, and still it has taken me nine months to do it! It surprised me that all I had to do was clean and dust and sort and spit-shine and hang some pictures and spend a little time loving the stuff I had just yesterday badmouthed for anchoring me down. That anchor may be the only thing keeping me tethered. It's such a luxury, being able to dust and polish and see your stuff. I just had to plug in.

Yeah, it seems like a small thing. But it's your home. It's your to-do list. It's where you sleep each night. And I lit the candles and had a hot cup of tea with a little shot of Calvados and I stretched all my muscles from a day of deep-cleaning and it was damn good. Home, for now.

Posted by laurie at June 18, 2010 8:51 PM