Rebuilding The Nest
We’ve been back in America now for about 36 hours, remarkably few of which have been spent sleeping, exhausted though we are. We find ourselves up before sunrise, unpacking, sorting, sifting through things in the semi-dark, wondering. Whose house is this? Whose stuff is this?
See this pile? None of it is ours, yet it was spread out all over the house. We’ve been on a mission to ferret it out, return it to its owner, our former tenant, in order to reclaim the space as our own.
But the tenant, when I called him, was surprised to learn that all of this stuff was his. I described the lamps, the blanket, the kitchenware, and he said that he had thought it was all ours. He didn’t mean to leave it behind, he just didn’t know it belonged to him. I think it’s because he’d lost his wife just a few months before he came to live here, and maybe it was all hers, in his mind. He’d brought it here, because he didn’t know what else to do with it, but really, he didn’t own it.
The kitchen is another story. The fridge and freezer were absolutely stuffed with food, every cupboard overflowing. Often with two, three, or even more of the same item, often all of them opened. Had some of it been hers too? Or did he just think that he needed breadcrumbs, salad dressing, get some, have that thought again, get some more, lose sight of the ones he’d already opened? Three bags of chocolate chips and pounds of butter in the freezer. Was he a big baker, or had those been hers too? I bagged up everything that could be donated to the food bank, tossed most of the rest.
Unlike our former tenants who left everything eerily the same, this time everything was eerily different. On my night table he’d left me a book on grief and coping with loss. Nothing in it mentions stocking up your life with enough food for a family of ten, but perhaps that helped in some way. He said that he was at peace here, and maybe that’s the best you can hope for.
So now, slowly, we’ll try to rebuild our life here on the island. Soon Beppo and Zazou will be here, and then our shipment will arrive from France. All the cupboards and corners will once again be overflowing, but this time with our own stuff.
I hate to think that stuff makes a life, but in some way it’s true. After all, in France we’ve been living in a furnished house, with someone else’s stuff all around us, and still we managed to acquire, or took there with us, what turned out to be about 3 cubic meters of stuff to ship back here. We couldn’t settle in here until we’d rooted out every channel zester and bulb baster that wasn’t ours, even though they were virtually identical to our own. The last time we came back I felt like we were in a time warp; this time it’s a stuff warp.
I have to admit, though, that I kept those chocolate chips. They’ll help Shel cope with loss, the loss of his beloved next door French bakery.