A curious thing happens when you move. You forget how much stuff you have. Three weeks ago, I finally wiggled out of the wee rabbit hutch I’d rented when I returned to Kearney in 2017. I moved to a bigger place.
My old abode — the back half of a century house — was as unique and charming as an antique car. I fell in love instantly with the brick wall in the kitchen and the large window in the living room. Sure, it had its quirks, but what doesn’t?
The bedroom closet was so tiny that I hung my shirts on a wooden closet rod in an alcove in the living room.
The steps up to the attic were as narrow as dental floss. The attic had two charming alcoves that beckoned me to sleep up there, but I couldn’t squeeze a double-bed mattress up that staircase. Turns out I couldn’t jam a double mattress in the cramped den downstairs, either, so I slept down there in a single bed I stumbled on at a yard sale.
The bathroom was as cramped as a phone booth. In the kitchen, the outlet for a washer and dryer claimed the only bare spot where a table could go, so I put the table there and just went to a laundromat every week. As for Jack Sprat-sized bathroom storage, I kept my toothpaste, shampoo and soap in a chest in the living room.
Still, fondly, it was home. It was just two minutes from the office, and I liked the shady neighborhood. I had acres of storage in the attic, and those little alcoves up there kept calling to me. When a friend gave me two single beds, I slivered them up there so I had room for guests.
For two years, that sweet little henhouse worked, but a few weeks ago, I graduated to a bigger place.
Ten years ago, I’d sold my beloved 163-year-old house in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and turned into a nomad. I’ve moved to Abiquiu, N.M., Flagstaff, Ariz., on to Kearney, back to Abiquiu, and back again to Kearney. As I did, I let a lot of my stuff go like the pioneers who shoved clumsy pianos and useless china tea sets out onto the Oregon Trail.
Still, I had more than I realized.
On June 14, the movers came and went in three hours, leaving me plunked amidst abrupt disorganization. I felt as if I’d been battered and spun by a tornado.
At first, I just walked around. So much space, I said, again and again.
But as I began to unpack, I felt my insides loosen and uncurl. I could breathe again. I had a dishwasher for the first time in 10 years. I could hold a square dance in my enormous bedroom closet. I have an authentic coat closet by my front door — not just an alcove, but a closet.
I have a dining room. I have a bedroom for visitors. I even have a washer and dryer. Goodbye, laundromat. I’m still wandering around a bit, awed by its vast prairies of space. My 32-inch TV felt as fat as a rhino in the old apartment, but in my new living room, it’s the size of a postage stamp.
Sages warn us about sticking like Velcro to material things and places, but we humans yearn for our own sanctuaries of comfort. In the last 10 years, I’ve deliberately downsized, yet this place is a step up, a ripening blossom in the window of my life.
Last Sunday, wonderfully content, I sat down at the lovely cherry pedestal table that was my mother’s, and I thought of her fondly. She died three years ago this week. She had high standards. You would like this place, I told her. That is the ultimate compliment.
At last, after two years in Kearney, I’m nestling into a place that feels like home.