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.

Explore posts in the same categories: French Letters Visits America

10 Comments on “Rebuilding The Nest”

  1. John DePaula Says:

    When I moved to France, I was so lucky to have such great tenants: a young family from Bonn, Germany. They kept the place immaculate, tended the garden, and replaced a broken press pot (which they certainly didn’t have to do).

    The only thing left behind were a few pictures drawn by the girls – actually very charming.

    A warm welcome back to the U.S. to you and Shel!

  2. zuleme Says:

    Glad to here you are back ok.

  3. Nina Says:

    Thank you for posting, Abra. So glad to hear you are home safe.

  4. Jan Says:

    Your post makes me think of George Carlin’s “stuff” routine 🙂 That is a huge pile of stuff to not remember you had. Very strange. Glad you’re back and getting settled in.

  5. Linda Mounday Says:

    Been thinking about u 2 … and glad to see you’re home safe.

  6. Forest Says:

    seems like just yesterday you were here! hope you’re getting settled back in okay. I just finished the very last bit of that cheese this morning! mmmmm….cheesy goodness.

  7. Debra Lane Says:

    Welcome home Abra and Shel! I know its bittersweet but soon you will again start to feel the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and all there is to offer here and get settled in. Let us know when you come in to Seattle and we’ll hook up somewhere wonderful for lunch.

  8. Brother Mark Says:

    Welcome home, Abra and Shel. I understand how your tenant ended up where he was, with the loss of his wife. You get distracted easily, starting to do one thing, then distracted by something else that needs to be done, and then a dozen other things along the way, long forgetting where the journey started, and accomplishing nothing. You have things that you don’t want or need, and have no idea what to do with them, burdened by their presence, yet further burdened by the guilt of discarding another person’s life. I’ve been there. Sorry you were the one to get stuck cleaning it all up. A lesson for us all. Blessings, love and health to you and the family.

  9. Rebecca Says:

    We are also coping with “stuff of other people” here at the Coop. It IS an eery feeling. I am thinking of you both and hoping that this leg of your journey, through existence together, will be a happy one.

  10. Lori Says:

    Glad to hear you made it back safe and sound. Wishing you all the best and hoping that you find a good substitute for that French bakery!

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