I have a number of semi-abandoned mystery novel manuscripts in my collection. I’m very fond of the characters and revisit them occasionally. Someday, I may even complete one. My favorite is the story of Amanda Corey, a middle-aged woman whose husband dies suddenly. She discovers that the comfortable financial position she thought was secure is but a house of cards. Her husband’s business fell into a tailspin, and he was heavily in debt. He had forged her name on a new mortgage for their house, so she didn’t even have a place to live. In need of a paying position as well as a new home, Amanda accepts a position as the resident manager of an old but well-maintained courtyard apartment building in Chicago’s Rogers Park. She has her things moved into the manager’s apartment and arrives to take up residence the next day. Since it’s a mystery, there is, of course, a body. She finds it sitting in the wicker loveseat in her front sunroom. So far so good.
But now I am in the process of moving from a house in which we have lived for 30 years to a much smaller apartment in a retirement community. Amanda, I owe you an apology. I glossed over the entire harrowing procedure of sorting through years’ worth of acquired stuff and preparing to move. Especially if the move is out of practicality rather than choice. Where did all this come from? Each and every item must have been deliberately acquired at some point and brought into the house. What were we thinking? Who thought we needed a trio of big blue ceramic Christmas ducks? I don’t remember ever using them to decorate at Christmas time. It’s quite possible that they were an after-Christmas purchase. There is a series of price stickers on the bottom of one foot. $1.99. Discounted down five times from $34.99. Each duck. A must-have bargain. Assuming one could get past the absolute nonessentiality of owning a trio of big blue ceramic Christmas ducks. I have five rolling pins. I kept my mother’s, which was once a nice one, but someone let it soak in water at some point, and it’s pretty warped. It doesn’t even roll well. She was mad about that but too stubborn to get a new one. Another belonged to my great grandmother, who at 17 married my great grandfather, who was 72. They had five children in quick succession. Unsurprisingly, he died soon after. She supported the family by operating a bakery, Lobners, in the Boston area. This was her pie crust rolling pin. Surely it deserves a place in the extremely limited kitchen space in my new apartment.
There should be no question about lawn equipment. The retirement community is beautifully landscaped and has a magnificent formal garden. The only thing I will have to do is enjoy. So why am I agonizing over what is going to happen to my heavy-duty walk-behind brush cutter? Yes, it’s heavy and awkward and old and rusted, but between the two of us, we tamed as much of the property as needed each year. It will not accompany us, but I will miss it. My daughter is keeping the house, which means I can just leave stuff. I know she rolls her eyes at some of the furniture I’m leaving behind, and I refuse to even think about how she will react to the brush cutter. Or the snow blower, which was an ill-conceived purchase my husband when a friend was moving. We have a gravel driveway. It works perfectly well if the intent is to project a stream of snow and gravel toward the trash cans, shed and anything else in the way. And clothes. In my closet I have clothes in every size known to woman. I rationalized getting rid of the smallest sizes; I will never get there again. In fact, I don’t remember ever being that small. Must have rushed through that size in a couple of months on my way up. I took a deep breath and donated all the clothes that are too big for me, vowing never to return to those sizes again. Since I’m pretty cheap (although I prefer the term frugal) I know it will give me real pause if I get to the point where I have to buy bigger clothes. So it will help me keep a healthier weight.
Once upon a time, I worked for a tailor in a downtown apartment building in Chicago. We actually spent most of the afternoon watching TV. He made me a magnificent dress coat. I have never worn it (I am definitely not the dress coat type) but I hate to part with it. Shoes. I long ago gave up the idea that I can wear anything like high heels without ignominiously crashing to the ground, so I don’t have any. I didn’t realize it when I was younger, but poor balance comes along with my medical conditions. I do have some boots and shoes I really like. I haven’t worn them in a while because they accentuate my balance problems, although not nearly so much as the heels. Besides, as my knees and ankles have gotten more and more decrepit, I have trouble getting them on.
Of course, the most unsettling decisions surround books. We have an entire wall of book shelves in the family room, and everywhere you look, we have more books. My husband’s science fiction collection. Old favorites; gifts from friends who are authors; all the anthologies in which I have a story. I finally went through and pulled out what I really want. My daughter is going to take care of the rest. Just as well. If I started taking books off the shelves, I would spend the next several days perusing books rather than sorting and packing.
Back to Amanda and the unfinished manuscript. I realize how badly I underestimated the anguish and hassles of reluctantly moving from a beloved big house to a small apartment. After we get settled, I think I will revisit Amanda, giving her full credit for the brave move to a new world for herself, and see if she would like to continue the story.