Exile on Morning Street
After three furious days of ripping and retching our way through new home ownership, the best possible thing happened: We were banned from our house. It’s not that the Grown-Up Fairy (not to be confused with Glinda the Stink Bomb) came along and told us, “Alright, you two. Jig’s up. You’re not mature enough to own your own home. Hand over the keys.” (Although I do have to confess that, to this day, I still half-expect that to happen.)
No, the reason we were exiled was that at 6:45 on that Monday morning, the floor guys arrived, meaning we would not be able to cross our own threshold for four days. Four whole days away from cooties, carpets, cleaning and carping. Four whole days to get our ducks in a basket and eggs in a row. Four whole days to gird ourselves. We had a downtown office and an apartment, where I had lived for nearly a decade, that required packing, did we not? (Notice my emphasis on the word “we,” when most of the stuff was mine.) We had shopping to do, boxes to find, beer to buy, a zillion trips to Goodwill to make – the list was endless. The fact we couldn’t get into the house meant we could focus on the wrap-up phase and get a jump on things. After all, our crap wasn’t going to just pick up and walk across Tukeys Bridge, now, was it? (Oh my God. Tukeys Bridge? That meant I was going to become a Bridge and Overpass Person. Could big hair and a minivan be far behind?)
And there were plenty of things we could’ve done at our new home. I could’ve lorded over my crew of workers like I’m sure some annoying homeowners do, but then that meant breathing all that dust and chemical matter. I could’ve used the basement door to access our laundry room without disturbing the floor-refinishing process, but I continued to do laundry back at our Morning Street apartment in the skuzzy, communal washer we shared with our neighbor, Thong, and her never-ending assortment of undergarments. Hell, I could’ve even gone to our new house and made a snowman in our backyard, played winter croquet and had a barbecue if I wanted. But I didn’t. The only time either of us ventured over there for those four days was to make sure the floor guys hadn’t left any doors open and let the neighborhood squirrel posse (oh, and they are organized) move in and take up residence.
So, how did we utilize this break away from our new house? How did we make good use of this gift of time? Despite the fact it shook every fiber of my Yankee being, we did nothing.
And nothing, it turned out, was just what we needed. We were both still a little wobbly from our bout with Shag-Thai fever, and my back hadn’t fully recovered from my fall at the voting center. And we were tired – cryin’ tired, as I like to say. Not only did it give our guts and my spine a chance to heal, it also afforded me time to swan around town, informing anyone who wanted to listen – and, frequently, those who did not – that I was being banished to the suburbs. “Priced off the peninsula,” I’d lament, my palms upturned. “All those mooks from Boston came up here and drove up the price of real estate. What can you do?” I’d say, while waiting in line at the Hannaford. “Twenty-five years in Portland, and I had to wait ’til the biggest housing boom to buy,” I’d sigh as I waited for the elevator in the State Theatre building. “I always figured I was going to be an apartment dweller. Then I had to go and get married at 40, and that was the end of that.” By the time the elevator came, I was usually traveling solo.
I also made it a point to remind the fellas at my post office on Congress Street (those of us in the know simply refer to it as Station A) that I would soon be trading in my twin ’01 zips (home and office) for an ’03. “O-three?” I’d say. “That’s practically Windham. I might just as well write ‘the sticks’ on my return address.” Fortunately, those guys at Station A are used to a little local color and would indulge me. (And how I long for those days. My neighborhood post office is now in a Rite Aid.)
I was so refreshed by our break that I was actually anxious to get back to the assault on the house – which was fortunate, since there was a Peavey Family Work Party (in any other family those words are generally antithetical; in mine, they’re synonymous) scheduled for the weekend. My two older brothers (who were grateful John had de-spinsterized me and thus saved them from the responsibility of my aged upkeep) and their mates were going to come help make the house habitable. The list of things that needed immediate attention – beginning with “Remove cutlery that has been lodged there since the Eisenhower era from kitchen drain” – was long. We had needed that time off.
The respite had renewed our resolve. Maybe being away from the house had made us remember why we wanted to own our little bungalow in the first place. Or maybe we had needed to remind ourselves how lucky we were to be able to own our own home – without real risk of the Grown-Up Fairy bonking us over the head and kifing our keys. Regardless, on that Thursday, when the floor guys called to say they were done and we drove over to stand outside on the porch and look in the windows as the late afternoon sun spilled across our beautiful, glistening maple floors, I knew we were home.
Elizabeth Peavey – given half a chance – would still love to tell you how she was run off the Hill. If you see her waiting for an elevator, move along.