Monday, January 21, 2008

Nothing is the same after you move away

This house is ours for 4 more days. In 3 days, it will be filled from floor to ceiling with boxes, ready for the moving truck. In 3 days, it will be filled with packers invading our space. In two days, the cabinet specialist is coming to measure the kitchen for the new cabinets that will be put in after we leave. In fact, not much will be the same after we leave. The hospital tile will go, to be replaced with new wood floors and carpet in the bedrooms. The gold flecked counter tops will be torn out and replaced by something probably not so colorful. I think our wonderful kitchen that takes up 1/3 of the house will be partitioned off so there's room for a new laundry room. They're even doing away with the detachable dishwasher.
Nothing is the same after you move away.
Even the neighbors are moving, almost all of them, this summer. Soon there won't be anyone on the block who really knows us, who can tell the new people who move in to our old place stories about roasting marshmallows over our backyard fireplace, or how TJ used to terrorize the younger kids, or how all the kids would come over to our house to make cookies.
Nothing is the same after you move away.
I wonder who will wind up with the swingset? The wooden one that the people who lived here before us bought, and gave to their neighbors 3 years ago, who gave it to the neighbors on the other side of us when they left, who gave it to us. We'll pass it along to the neighbors as we leave, but they aren't far behind us.
Nothing is the same after you move away.
I wonder if there will be any trace of us left here after we leave. Seems funny to just move on without putting down roots of any kind, without leaving any hint that we were here (I mean besides the broken bits of frisbee buried in the mud in the backyard). I've scrubbed the walls pretty well, so I don't think there will be handprints left. This has been an important place for us. We survived a deployment here. We got stronger here. Emma and Nathan call this place home. Now we are just supposed to clear out of here and take everything with us?
Are home and family really so separate and distinct?
Maybe there will be a few footprints left, footnotes left of our life here. Clues that anyone with a hankering for archeology could figure out. A bead here (from Emma's famous beaded socks), a lego there...
Maybe the new occupants will wander down the hall and hear the tinkling of the piano or mandolin not knowing where it was coming from.
Or maybe they will step through the door and love the place, from the new wooden floorboards to the ceiling - just really love it, and say, "Now this is a place my family can call home." because we have.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The value of things

Ok, so the new Legos catalogue arrived just a few days ago, along with shouts from our middle child - "Mom, can you buy me something?" One would think that the Christmas toy satiation would still be in effect not two weeks past the blessed day. No. Apparently not. In attempts to teach our children the value of money and work, our standard reply to the "buy me something" question is "why don't you earn the money and buy it yourself". So, naturally, his next question to me is, "Mom, can I earn some money?" This is a loaded question. The boys know that in response to this question I will generate a list of jobs they can do around the house. (Housework, ugh!) They like to try other ideas before faced with the terrible prospect of any kind of cleaning. One favorite potential money making activity is an art sale. When they sit down at the art table to draw or write, they draw all kinds of weapons, animals, homes, etc. Normal boy stuff. But they seem to be convinced that art sales requires them to show their ethnic sensitivities, and so they draw calveras. Never heard of them? The kids got the idea from the pbs show Maya and Miguel - where there is a whole episode about a calavera (sugar mask painted in bright colors to celebrate Dia de los Muertes). And here is the standard process: Nathan draws a couple of calaveras and comes to me "Mom, I'm going to sell the big one for 10 dollars and the little one for 5 dollars." He still believes in easy money. It's always crushing to walk them through more realistic pricing. TJ has actually held an art sale before. He took an old wire shoe rack and used bent paper clips to pin the art to the shoe rack, which he then took outside and propped up against a telephone pole in our front yard. Any neighbor who happened to be out walking dogs or playing with their children was accosted (he's not a shy child) and asked if they wanted to purchase any of his drawings. He usually finds one or two compassionate neighbors who are willing to give him a dollar in exchange for two of his 3 minute masterpieces.
Anyway, Nathan must have been desperate because he totally skipped from the art sale idea to housework. "Make me a list, mama." I did - added as many jobs as I thought my 6 year old would be able to do reasonably quickly and easily. Things like wiping off the kitchen table, picking up all the toys and shoes in the living room, sorting the recycling, etc. I offered to pay him what I thought was a generous 50 cents per job. Any of the jobs could be completed in a couple of minutes. Fair is fair, and I'm not made of money. Nathan was outraged. "Mom! NO WAY! Three dollars and 50 cents for 8 jobs (there were actually only 7)?!?!" I upped the ante a bit, and offered 5 dollars if he completed all the jobs on the list, but he was still totally offended. "I am not doing these!" he yelled, and stormed off to the art table.
Maybe I should have talked with him more about standard hourly wages, so he'll know what to expect once he gets a job as a teenager (and makes 6 bucks an hour folding tacos). But all I could think of was hey, I do all those things for free.....
Ahh, the value of motherhood!