When I first made the decision to move back to California, into the house that I had left behind five long years ago, there were so many emotions to face. How long until the walls closed in on me? Would I be able to stick it out long enough to get my book written? Who was I when I wasn’t a Peregrine – wandering from place to place collecting stories and life experiences? Would I be ordinary?
After a mad dash from Colorado, where all of our belongings were stored for two years, to California in record time to meet the over-caffeinated driver of the moving truck, Stewart and I arrived in Walnut Creek, exhausted on a Thursday night. We realized that our garage, which was built in the early 1970′s, was too low for us to park 7’3″ Peregrine inside. The homeowners association doesn’t allow any campers or trailer to be parked on the street – and makes no exceptions for celebrities – we had nowhere to sleep, and nowhere to park. Fortunately, Stewart was thinking faster than me, and dragged the cushions and memory foam into the empty house. A quick call to the local police department, and we found a street where we could park Peregrine for three days undisturbed.
When the guys were unloading the truck, all I kept thinking was, “What is in all those boxes?”, and “Where is all my furniture?”. When we made the decision to hit the open road, I gave away or sold most of my furniture. The only things that I kept were things with sentimental and collectible value. Beds, gone. Kitchen table and chairs, gone. Living room sofa, gone. Desk and book shelves, gone. The main problem with my method was with no furniture, there is nowhere to actually put anything. Those several dozen books that I just couldn’t let go of, are now stuck in their boxes until I once again accumulate a piece of furniture to house them. It’s a vicious circle. This was not my first time doing this, so I write from experience. In the ’90s I did the same thing with all of my belongings when I moved to Ireland. This purging of personal belongings is cathartic, but can also be quite expensive.
While I was unpacking a box marked “Mara’s Bathroom”, I came across a lovely green and black alabaster round canister. I love interesting boxes, so in the past, whenever a loved one was faced with that inevitable question, “What should I get Mara for her birthday?” it was easily answered by searching for a unique box. When I removed the lid and looked inside, there were a pile of cotton balls squeezed together. Cotton balls. My first reaction was, “Do I have any polish remover?”. While living in Peregrine, space was at such a high premium that I had to decide early on which it was going to be – cotton swabs or cotton balls. Cotton swabs have more practical applications, and take up less space, so it was au revoir little puffy clouds of softness.
Now I have been back in my house for two months. Stewart and I welcomed a horde of darling trick o’ treaters. We have entertained two sets of out of town guests (I hope more will come soon). We celebrated Thanksgiving dinner complete with all the accompanying fanfare. The house is looking more like a home each day thanks to the hard work that both of us have put into it nonstop since we have been back. Much of my time each day has been spent replacing items previously given away or sold at bargain-basement prices.
With each chair, each rug I add to my home, it feels as though the tether tightens. How did this happen when I worked so hard to free myself from this just two short years ago? My favorite purchase of all is an old farmhouse table that looks like it has so many stories of its own to tell. This will be my desk while I write. As long as I keep focused on why I am here, I can breathe. Please pass the cotton balls.