Recently, our apartment complex was acquired by another company, and in celebration, they decided to renovate everything. Oddly, this even included apartments that were still occupied, as opposed to the usual strategy of landlords everywhere, which is to wait until you move out, and then make the apartment a nicer place to live.
In any event, the powers that be decided to make this process as pain(less/full) as possible by performing the entire renovation over the course of a workday. This was nice, since it meant the inconvenience was over quickly, but it was also unfortunate, since it meant that the inconvenience was both massive and unavoidable.
Along with replacing several of our appliances and all our cabinets and counters, they tore out half our carpet and replaced it with laminate. I tell you this not because I think you’ve been affected by whatever mind-altering chemical HGTV puts in the water to trick their victims into giving a shit about other people’s renovation projects, but rather because I want to provide you with a sense of perspective.
You see, when you live in a two bedroom apartment and you’re told that you need to clear out all of your storage space but can’t put the junk stored therein anywhere on your carpet, you have a bit of a predicament on your hands. That is, the sort of predicament where you pile all your worldly possessions into one corner of your living room and look for someplace to spend a couple nights while your home is in shambles.
Incidentally, would you like a frustrating experience? Pile all of your furniture into your living room and set everything else on top of it, and then turn your head slightly to the left to look at your completely empty dining room, where you’re not allowed to put anything.
It took us most of the week to turn everything we own into a game of Jenga, with the whole experience feeling midway between moving out (and leaving all your crap behind) and going on vacation (to your mother’s house).
In the final hours of packing up to stay a few nights at my mother’s house, the place felt somehow wrong. Like the thing that made it home just wasn’t there anymore. Our apartment, but not home. Both barren and full of junk. It was like walking around inside of a Zen koan.
When we’d finally finished, the “moving out” feeling returned. I wanted to wistfully look around the apartment one last time, but all I could really do was wistfully look around the ratty old carpet one last time. Goodbye, barf stain from the cat. Goodbye, dishwasher with the weird smell.
And then hello to my childhood bedroom. Well, not so much “childhood” as “a few years from high school to college,” but still–I was back home again.
Sort of. The room was the same in the sense that it occupied the same physical space, but shortly after my departure my mother turned it into an office. And then, a few years after that, she realized that when you have four grandchildren and you do all your work on a laptop anyway, a home office is less practical than an extra bedroom, and she converted the office into a Nightmare Emporium.
A Nightmare Emporium, by the way, is a giant bed surrounded by a sea of out-of-season decorations that can only be described as a cross between the Nightmare before Christmas and that actual nightmare about Christmas you had as a child, where Santa Claus broke into your house in the night and murdered your pets.
Anyway, after a couple nights in the Nightmare Suite (during which I’m pretty sure a haunted Santa managed to perform a Child’s Play-style incantation on my wife in the night), we went back home to see our brand new, same old apartment.
But still not home. Not yet, anyway. It wasn’t because everything had changed; it was the way everything was packed away. The place that should be a refuge from the world–where you could relax on the couch or start a new project or just walk around with no pants on–had become a place of constant annoyance, where dust covered every surface, where stacks of things waiting to get put away taunted you at every turn, and where everything you needed was forever lost somewhere in a load-bearing box that somehow held up the couch.
Cleaning up proved tricky, since, through some quirk in the space-time continuum, our apartment seemed to have gotten smaller since we’d taken everything off the shelves, leaving us with several storage dilemmas. Nevertheless, even though it took some time, we eventually managed to restore order, and the unfamiliar place where we kept all of our stuff turned into home again.
And, at the end of it all, I had to agree with the demon that now inhabits my wife’s body: it was good to be home.