October 2009. In a few days, the electricity and the water would be shut off. The notice to vacant the house and the property could be left at our door now anytime. I decided to stay in our home for as long as I could. My husband meanwhile slept for two days on his brother’s couch, 800 miles away.
I kept myself busy. I went through all the paperwork in the office, and there was lots of it. What would we need to file the taxes? Bank and credit card statements. What would we need in the future? It took me two days to go through every binder. Part of it I shredded, part went in a box to be taken. I had made a list of things to destroy and throw away, another list of what I needed to pack. What should I take with me to my friend’s house? What would we need to start a new life? And what to do with all the personal things you don’t want other people to see -or know you had.
Strangers would go through all our belongings soon. I tried not to think about it, but it was hard not to. We could have borrowed some money from friends, but what sense does it make to accept a loan, when you don’t know how to pay it back?
Paying a moving company and a storage facility to store all our belongings for an unknown amount of time, not knowing where we would end up, didn’t make any sense either. We had gone over all possible scenarios numerous times.
We didn’t have kids. It was just us and the dogs. We were not tied down, we could go wherever we needed to go to make a living, and we were willing and ready to do just that.
Two days later our house went dark. The faucets were dry the day after. I was prepared. Our large tub in the bathroom was filled, the dog had multiple bowls full of water outside and inside. I had a grill outside and ate out of the freezer. The notice to vacate in three days was left at the door the same day. I had weak moments when I cried, other times I was so filled with anger, I wanted to hit something as hard as I could.
Having no power -literally and figuratively- left me feeling very vulnerable. Having no water, made me feel like the lowest of low-lives. Why us? And the universe laughed, “Why not?”
When you know you will lose everything, you start going from room to room, and you try to decide what to take, and what to leave. I had made a priority-list and it surprised me how cold-heartedly I let things go in my mind, and how quickly I declared once treasured, beautiful things now as unnecessary. My beloved elephant collection, the crystal rose I had been so proud of and the rather large, but stunningly beautiful abstract painting I had found at a resale shop by accident. All the artwork. None of it mattered. Not my candles, not the loving presents giving to me by my friends and my husband. My keyboard and the stand, the small closet full of craft supplies. I didn’t even take the pictures I had painted and framed, not the blankets I had knitted and sewn. I did grab the knitting needles and some yarn. My calligraphy pen and the ink. Not sure why.
My brain was on autopilot and survival mode. We all are so much stronger than we think we are.
I needed my sewing machine, the air tank, and all my tools if I wanted to start my furniture restoration business someday, somewhere again. In case I would work as a translator again, I needed all the keyboards, dictionaries, and grammar books. Books to read, paper to write on, address books and the red shiny box with the bow, holding all the cards and letters we had written to each other in all these years together.
My clothes and shoes of course, nothing fancy, all the suits and special dresses and seasonal things were not important. Underwear and socks, three large dogs beds, and all the dog ‘stuff’ like bowls, grooming scissors and shears. Pajamas, and a robe, one purse. I thought about my grandmother a lot. I remembered her story how she and other women had sewn jewelry in their coats when they had to flee during WWII. She was so strong and so was I –but then why did I cry so much?
I opened the safe took the jewelry out. They would come in handy much later, helping us survive. I sat in the garage, opened my last pack of cigarettes (Why did I not quit back then?) I sipped on a glass of wine, when I looked at our washer and dryer set in the corner, on a small platform. I had been so proud when they had delivered my new front load washer and dryer in shiny dark blue. Now they would stay with the house, and just when I finished the thought a heavy dose of WHAT THE F…. rolled over me. What if I?
They were not really ours, we still had some payments to make. Would it be alright if I would sell them? Of course, I knew the answer but I decided not to think about it for too long. I got the camera, took pictures, downloaded and uploaded everything on the computer, and two hours later the washer and dryer were up for sale on Craigslist. The phone rang that night. A young man wanted them badly for his wife. 800 dollars went into my wallet the next morning. Another $100 for my elliptical trainer and $100 for my treadmill. All of it had been in the garage in plain sight all the time. I asked a neighbor to give me a ride to the next UPS store and I mailed a letter with $500 to my husband. I was a genius. I had made money! That night I had a BBQ chicken pizza and another bottle of wine. WTH…live a little.
Sprint called and notified me that our blackberry phones would be turned off shortly as well, and so I got the last things together. I found a note on my door from Susie, a neighbor, asking me if I was alright. I hadn’t answered the door or her calls. What was going on in our life was private. I was not in sharing mood. They would have enough to talk in a few days.
I knew I would fall apart if I would start talking about it. I couldn’t afford to fall apart, now was not the time.
My international cookbook collection! I swallowed hard and grabbed three cookbooks I loved the most and a few other books. A few CDs, my I-pod and the docking station with speakers. One perfume, stuff from the bathroom a woman needs, comforter and pillows, sheet sets and blankets. Towels, why didn’t I think about them when I packed my husband’s truck? I knew we had only one large truck, and the inside would be full with the two of us and three big dogs. What else should I pack?
The coffeemaker was a must, no matter where we would end up, there was coffee in our future. I didn’t grab the pictures on the walls, not even ours the ones from the photographer. We knew how we looked like, other things were more important. Like a coffeemaker!
Two laundry baskets, a few duffel bags, trash bags full of STUFF were lined up at the garage door. I sat down, lit another cigarette, and called my friend. “Come and get me,” I managed to say and an hour later I heard her pull up.
We loaded her small car, put the dog beds on the back seats. The shepherd mix and the Weimaraner laid down on the back seat, they were nervous. There was still room on the floorboard. I run back inside in the dark and grabbed a few things. I run upstairs got the laptop and the camera. How could I have not packed them?
Then, I opened the door to the backyard and got MY DOG, the pit bull mix. There was no room left for him, he had to sit between my legs in the front -it would become a habit. Like a thief in the night I left the place I had called home for so many years.
At my friend’s house we ‘parked’ the dogs in her backyard and unloaded the car. Her guestroom was waiting for me, dinner was ready. Two wine glasses and a bottle were waiting on the table. We smoked, drunk, ate a bit, talked some more. I drank too much, it felt good.
Our three big dogs were on their best behavior, like they knew their future could depend on it. They listened to every command I gave, stayed out of the dining room when I gave them a hand signal. Training all of them finally paid off. The dogs were as exhausted as I was. They laid down on their beds -just the little ankle-biter misbehaved as usual. She felt at home and played with her mom, a proud little wiener dog named Gumbo. She had no worry in the world, while I felt like the weight of the world was resting on my shoulders.
I called my husband, shared the events of my day with him. I listen to him telling me about his day, how he felt unwelcomed at his brother’s. “I think I am a burden on them,” he said and didn’t know what to say. He had been filling out applications all over town. He had filled up the car and drove around all day long. It wouldn’t take long and he would find a job -he had to.
That night I slept deep and dreamless, our dogs beside me.