May 16 2010

Settling In

Friends and family, cats and kittens, Romans and countrymen: lend me your address books! We’re all moved in to our new home at 5356 Trask St, Oakland CA 94601.

Robin took the move really well. The boxing-up process was a fun game to him: he wanted to help. He did start to get anxious the day the movers came, as the apartment emptied out. Towards the end he was just clinging to me and refusing to be set down. But when we got to the new house and he saw all his stuff there, he was perfectly happy. He’d visited the house probably a half-dozen times, so it was already familiar to him, and he likes having the extra room to run around in—plus the backyard!

Our cat Marlis has adjusted well too. We let her outside for a few minutes last night and tonight, and it’s clear that she’s enjoying the extra space and the stimulation of new places to explore. When she’s stressed out she expresses it by standing on my head in the middle of the night and yowling horribly, so it’s really nice that she’s been so calm about this move.

As for me, I love this house beyond all reasonable limits. Sam and I had a great time driving around today to hardware stores and appliance stores and Target, picking up lightbulbs and such, chatting about our plans for the house. In the evening we came home and I sat on the back steps while Sam and Robin kicked a ball around the yard, and our hot dogs cooked on the grill (we bought a grill!). A tiny hummingbird came by just as the sun was setting, and I was just about overcome with the sweetness of it all. So ordinary and simple, and so perfectly satisfying.

Some mosquitoes came by too, but they only inspired me to think about getting a bat house for the backyard. I’m full of plans and dreams, but also full of contentment with the present. I really couldn’t be happier with our beautiful little house.

May 4 2010


For the next couple weeks we’ll be packing up our apartment, while the renovation work proceeds on our new home. Some of our neighborhood acquaintances, like the other moms at the park, have been following our house-buying saga, and words like “goodbye” and “good luck” are starting to enter our conversations. These people aren’t exactly friends—I’ve never been to their homes and they’ve never been to mine—but since we’ve been chatting every week for the past couple of years, we are a part of the rhythms of each others’ lives. It’s surprisingly wrenching to think that I may not see them again.

I was pondering this on the way home from the park last night, wondering why this move feels more difficult than all the ones I’ve made before, and I realized: Sam and I have been living in this apartment for more than five years now. That’s longer than I’ve ever spent in one place. We moved around a lot when I was a kid: before I went to college I only twice managed to spend two full years at the same school. And though I’ve been in San Francisco for ten years now, I’ve moved apartments every couple of years. Five years in one place is a personal milestone. Of course it’s harder to leave!

It’s also harder to leave because we’ve accumulated more stuff. When you’re used to moving every two years, you get in the habit of routinely purging your possessions. Unfortunately, Sam is a pack-rat, and has been vigorously resisting my periodic attempts to pick through our belongings and toss out everything we don’t use. The conversations go like this:

ME: “What is this tangle of cables and electronic junk? Do we need it?”

SAM: “Yes, we need it. I’m not sure what that cable is for but the memory cartridge is for the Nintendo 64 game system.”

ME: “But the Nintendo 64 is fifteen years old and we don’t have one, because we are not Neanderthals! We have a Wii!”

SAM: “We do too have a Nintendo 64! It’s in the closet.”

ME: “Well, let’s toss it out. You haven’t touched it in five years.”

SAM: “But I might!”

ME: “Okay, at least let me throw out the cable. If you don’t know what it goes to, you obviously don’t need it.”


But I might! is essentially unanswerable, and it pretty much sums up the philosophical difference between the purger and the pack-rat. The purger feels that nothing should be kept unless it is highly sentimental or provably useful. The pack-rat feels the opposite: nothing should be thrown out unless it can be proven that the item could never, under any conceivable circumstance or alignment of stars, possibly be desirable in any way.

I eventually won the Nintendo 64 argument, on the basis that the Wii can emulate all those old games so we don’t need the obsolete hardware; and Sam won the argument about the cables, on the grounds that cables don’t take up much space and it’s annoying not to have one when you need it. But we have to go through this for so many things.

Luckily we already have a compromise worked out. In the new house, Sam will get the basement and the garage to fill up however he chooses. If he wants to hold on to fraying, yellowing comic books that he’s never even read, that’s just fine. He can stock them next to his piles of gas station receipts, his certificates of achievement in third-grade deportment, all of his non-functioning computers and all of the power cables thereto, and the collection of fingernail clippings in jars that I fear he’ll begin amassing any day now. But in the living areas of the house I am allowed to be ruthless, and purge the clutter as often as I like.

I remind myself of this as I’m taping up the boxes full of broken, dusty crap that nobody has used in five years. Moving is always a gigantic hassle, but in two weeks it will be over. Saying goodbye is hard, but I’ll meet other moms in our new neighborhood, and strike up friendships with them. I already feel that we got spectacularly lucky in our immediate neighbors: on the right we have a distinguished gay man who teaches at an Oakland school, and on the left a grandmotherly, churchgoing African-American matron who charmed the socks off Robin within minutes. Both have been living in the neighborhood for over a decade and were quick to offer their welcomes. A diverse neighborhood of established families is exactly what we were hoping to find in Maxwell Park, so I’m delighted.

I don’t regret moving so much as a kid. It was sometimes hard always being “the new girl,” but I got to see a lot of the country, and to experience a number of different regional traditions. In Michigan I learned how to ice skate and in Washington D.C. I learned how to jump double-dutch rope. I can cheer the Tar Heels or call the hogs. I know where to get fried ravioli and frozen custard in St. Louis, and in theory I could probably even locate a brain sandwich if you’re ever wanting one.

But I want my sons to have a childhood home. I want them to grow up learning a single neighborhood so well that every tree is climbed and every stray cat is known by sight. I want them to be able to map their roots with detail and specificity: so that it is this house, this street, this city that in their hearts forms the template for Home. I want them to be from somewhere. I’m looking forward to the day, two weeks from now, when we’ll all come home.

Apr 12 2010

Things I Did Today, A Report, By Shannon

Today I got up, changed Robin’s diaper, got Robin dressed, got myself dressed, made coffee, put on an episode of Sesame Street, wrote a blog post, chatted with my BFF, made some phone calls, went to the bank, took Robin to the park, came home, and bought a house.

We signed the papers tonight! A notary and a representative from the title company came over and we signed a huge stack of papers, had our fingerprints stamped, and handed over an eleven thousand dollar cashier’s check (that was why I had to go to the bank)! The sellers have already signed, so as soon as all the money changes hands between the title company and the banks, the deed will be ours.

At some point when I’m less exhausted, and possibly a little less loopy with joy, I’ll write an outline of the whole long saga. Meanwhile, I put a bunch of pictures of our new house up on Flickr; you can see the whole set here. We love it so much. I still can’t believe it’s really going to be ours.