Tom would be home soon from work one dark morning so I needed to shovel snow, at least enough for him to drive into the carport.
And at first, there in the silent darkness, I muttered these words with each shovel load I scooped, "We were supposed to (grrr) be out of here by now (grrr)!" For you see, last winter I found strength in repeating these words: "At least I'll never have to do this again. Next year we'll live in gentler climates."
So much for that.
But you know? The more I shoveled, the more invigorated I felt out there in the balmy 30 degree temperatures (a big warm-up from yesterday). I reminded myself that on Oprah they said shoveling snow for 15 minutes is like working-out at the gym for two hours (though, technically, I believe that's an exaggeration, especially if you're shoveling snow Debra's sane-slow-safe way). But still, that's encouraging to someone who must shovel snow, yet would hate exercising in a public gym.
And when I'd shoveled out to the street, I stood there, gazed into the night sky, then at my neighbors' sleepy houses and appreciated the quiet and all my other hundreds of such winter morning memories. And it hit me--I was having, well, fun. Or a form of fun, anyway.
But only after I'd stopped complaining inside my head did I begin enjoying my task. Imagine that.
While inside our Cozy Room, we got a call from a different landlord. He described the house to us (a 'triple') and told us where it was located. Aha! It's in the neighborhood where, for the past year, I've felt a certain tugging of my heart. It's in the oldest part of town and frankly, a run-down, kinda-sad part, as well, yet there's just something about that little separate world back there, one which hasn't changed or advanced in 60 years.
And of course, I love that.
This morning we drove past the house and found it's on one of the cheerier streets, not all delapidated as some are in that forgotten corner. And the house, itself, appeared fine from the outside.
Well. Fast-forward to Thursday night. Tom and I went and viewed the tiny one bedroom apartment and declared it nearly perfect. The galley-style kitchen has tons of storage and counter space, more than I have now, and even the laundry closet in the kitchen/dining area enchanted me because for 14 years I've done laundry in our dark, dungeon-like basement.
After viewing the place, the landlord said he had another couple to show it to on Saturday morning and he'd call us around dinner-time that night.
But tired of searching for a house (and with time seeping away), we longed to grab him by the collar and say, "Listen. Forget that other couple. We'll give ya the first four months' rent right here on the spot!" But we refrained, drove home, and tried to stay positive. And ok--I prayed that God would give us favor with the landlord. :)
Yet only one thing made us hesitate about the apartment--there's around twenty feet of sidewalk which Tom will have to walk along, which means, Debra's job will be to keep it clear of snow. I mean, actually, the landlord said he shovels it, but I know better than to rely upon someone else to keep sidewalks ice-free enough for Tom, what with his bad leg and having to use a cane now and leaving during eerie, early morning hours.
But anyway, the landlord called this morning. He didn't even show the other couple the place--he said we could rent the apartment. He'd pretty much made up his mind about us after meeting us, he told me. (Maybe some godly favor coming into play there?).
But whatever, it's ours as of January 1st. After the call, I arranged the furniture in my mind inside the tiny living room--and I realized I'd already done that after returning home on Thursday night. Already I'd arranged the whole minuscule place inside my head, down to where I'd store our dvd's.
I can't wait to move in.
Years ago, I'd have dreaded moving into a tiny one bedroom place in an old house with two other families. I'd have been way, way too insecure to do that ("what will everyone think?"). And I'd have needed all my possessions around me like good ol' Linus needed his blanket.
But today? I'm excited--and grateful. I can't wait to 'play house' in that tiny apartment on the other side of town. I'm actually anticipating finding a place for everything and looking forward to making for Tom and myself, a cozy sweet home where we'll live for a few months while waiting to hear from God about where to go next.
And it's after seeing all these changes in my own head and heart that I know--absolutely--that Grace truly is amazing. It's time to move away and Grace is so here to help me step out the door one final time. Grace-fully.
Oh, we'll have one more Christmas dinner here inside this house. Naomi and Carl will come over on Christmas day and we'll open gifts inside these walls while listening to Christmas carols on the radio. And upon the table I'll set our Christmas plates and the holly tablecloth and red plaid napkins. And our gold grapevine Christmas tree will stand tall at the table's end, in front of the middle window where it's always stood before.
And in our hearts we'll say good-bye to this home which has sheltered us for fourteen very good years, years which took Naomi from junior high to age 25. The years which took me from a too-serious, complaining control-freak to a calm lover of Life and of God.
The following week we'll say hello to a whole new adventure and thousands more good, grace-filled, happy days to come, albeit in a different place. And that's ok--way more than ok--for I'm so ready for something new.
You'll find no pillar of salt here--for me, there will be no gazing back. I'll be following Grace, staring ahead at the back of her coat as she leads me to adventures I've not yet imagined.
So we'd lived in this apartment only a couple days and then one night someone knocked at the door.
I made Tom answer it since his pajamas can pass for regular clothes if you don't stare at them closely. The little neighbor boy asked to borrow a couple eggs because they were making chocolate cake and I loved that. We lived at our last house for nearly 15 years and no neighbor ever asked to borrow eggs or sugar or flour. But I always hoped they would. I wanted to feel as old-fashioned as possible in my old-fashioned neighborhood.
And now in this new place, I do.
Life feels simpler in our little cottage apartment. Comforting. Easy, cozy and sweet.
But what concerns me? The way we're utterly content living with only one-third of our possessions. Hmm... definitely a lesson there, one I hope to remember.
For whatever reasons we can receive mail at our apartment, but the mailman will not take ours away with him. So I walk a lot now, as in, down to the nearest blue public mailbox on a street which was once in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most bars. Only a few bars remain now, most with people living above them.
And there are apartments. Many apartments in huge, old houses from the early 1900's. Some well-kept, others leaning, tearful-looking. As though they miss the days when just one family lived inside.
All these people tucked away in leaning houses--I like to picture them happy, cozy, and filled with potential friends, but I'm aware they're not all that way. These streets exist only 5 blocks from my old house and life, but there's a feeling of being a whole planet away.
I now live in the Land of Apartments. And it's ok.
I often walk the blocks down to the convenience store and yesterday I walked farther, down to the old train dining car which has been sitting there since 1910 and is now a coffee shop. We've driven by many times, but no one is ever inside (it seems) so I went to give them business. To sow some goodwill and encouragement by buying coffee and a chocolate chip cookie.
I love when God tells me to sow goodwill by buying treats.
Another time I walked down to the convenience store by way of one of my favorite streets--the street running parallel to the window over our kitchen sink. I stroll that avenue and always I'm reminded of Anne of Green Gables, for there are at least two Victorian houses with huge yards and since our town began in this section, the trees stand like enormous towers.
I feel as though I'm strolling through old, open countryside when I stroll down that street, though if you were to walk along with me you'd say, "Wow, Debra. You certainly have one great imagination. I'm just not seein' any countryside, myself."
But that's okay.
Anyway, needing eggs and onions on Thursday, I strolled down our street to the new deli on the corner. Two women practically tripped over each other to serve me and I felt a little sad. Small businesses struggle in our area so I try to do what I can to help. They had no eggs, but they did have onions, so I bought one and a bit of potato salad.
On my way home, an older woman stood out in the snow and asked if I'd seen her black and white cat. He'd escaped last night and she'd been searching for him at 1 in the morning and a policeman asked what she was doing. She pointed to her windows three stories up in case I found him and I hoped he'd only meandered into another apartment and not outside. Way too cold for cats, it is.
Later, a friend of our neighbor-behind-us barbequed steaks outside on our sidewalk and I smiled because there's snow around the smoking barbeque. He even shoveled the sidewalk out to the front for me--I told him our daughter was coming by soon and I thanked him. And later I taped Valentines and red heart doilies to Tom's and my white door to make the neighbors smile when they enter the always-smokey vestibule with the peeling grey paint and missing slats.
What a difference a house makes! I am surrounded by people in our new neighborhood, people rather different than the ones only blocks away where we lived so long. I'm in the same town, but a whole other world. And I appreciate this opportunity.
I now recommend tiny one-bedroom houses to all you empty-nesters.
It's like playing house everyday and being ten-years-old again and using your once-neglected imagination so you can make four rooms feel like six, so you can, like a puzzle, fit all your pieces into closets and make all furniture pull double-duty.
Suddenly I'm a 1940's newlywed while I play my Benny Goodman Big Band music and do bouncy little dances down the hall with an apron tied around my waist. Oh how young I feel at those times--so of course--I avoid any mirrors in those moments lest they jerk me back to my nearly-fifty present and all this grey hair at my temples.
I'm not sure why our former house hasn't closed escro yet, but I'm sure that I'm thankful, for I'm still cleaning it out and sorting through the stuff and junk and nonsense left upon the shelves.
It's pleasant to savor this time and say good-bye slowly. You remember and feel more and appreciate anything more which you eye while slowing down.
Finally our old house is no longer ours. No more treks over there by foot through 12 degree temperatures or snow storms to meet inspectors or the buyer or to clean rooms and box or trash paraphernalia lurking in deep, dark corners.
Finally the house where I lived longer than any other (nearly 15 years) is mine no more to step into and walk through its rooms.
Hooray! It is so time to move on.
The other day I had this thought-- People who hate change are usually stuck. And darn unhappy.
Life was meant to flow and adapt as it rounds the corners.
Did I tell you that the window over the sink gets afternoon sunshine and the setting sun as well? And do you know how long I've dreamed of a kitchen window like that? Only the whole 29 years I've been married, that's all. Twenty-nine years! And the window finally came to me when I opened myself up to renting a tiny one-bedroom apartment in the lower front of an ancient gold house near the railroad tracks. The same tracks outside that kitchen window where I watch trains speed by and, with hands in soapy water, dream about the places they are going.
For the first years of our marriage I thought only a gigantic Victorian house would make me happy, but I never did get one of those. And now? Well, a Victorian house would make me tired.
The old Debra who used to hate change would have hated this apartment. She'd have whined, "It's too small. Too modern-ish. Too much in the wrong part of town and what will people say/think/do when they hear about this?"
But new Debra? She's breaking free from what 'they' say (whoever 'they' are). She realizes there is no new adventure unless there are a few changes at least somewhere in the journey.
P.S. On two nights now I've seen Amtrak trains fly by outside our kitchen with their lighted windows. Oh my. How Orient Express. How dreamy. How delightful for my imagination.
What a difference the sun makes!
And just arriving here at the library this morning and finding all your cheery comments to my last post made it seem as though the sun finally sprang out from behind the clouds. Even though it didn't in reality. So thank-you! It's great to travel here and feel as though a whole group of friends awaits.
Speaking of that, I'm loving not having computer access at our house. Well, maybe not loving it, exactly, but appreciating how it is stretching me, making me more patient regarding my peeks into Computer Land and happy to return to a more balanced way of handling all this.
I'm already praying that, when we do have computer access again, I'll remain set free from checking-in all the time or having this online world on my mind way too often.
Ok. I just know that some of y'all are wondering if I miss my old house, the one I lived in nearly 15 years, the one whose each and every wall I lovingly painted.
Truthfully? I don't miss it. Oh, perhaps the sunroom, especially on these dark winter days. That room was nearly half-made of windows so always there was a 'certain slant of light' in there, dark days or sunny.
But no, I was so ready for new vistas, even something tiny and temporary. The divine discontent within me was crazy-wild and I so needed to take the hint and move on.
When God wants to change either our circumstances or something inside us, we must cooperate or very little will go right. I could have refused to leave that much larger, more comfortable house, but I'd not have been as happy and contented as I am in our tiny (tiny!) cottage apartment.
I mean, the single mom behind us comes homes drunk on weekend mornings around 4:30 with at least three noisy friends, but you know? She's someone to pray for--someone for whom to do kind anonymous deeds. That's how I see her and her family, the one which tends to sound like a preschool is going on after school right outside our doorway.
And there's another single mom upstairs, with three teens I see her outside and always I must be the first to say hello--I think she's shy and oh my! I understand shy people after having been one for so very long. So I say hello first and usually make a little remark if she's not in a hurry rushing past me. Which usually she is.
No, I don't miss our former home. I'm too busy enjoying this interesting new phase, another place of learning and I don't plan on pulling a Lot's wife--no looking back allowed. For me, anyway.