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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

And Finally, Time to Stop

I love unpacking.  I think I love it as much as I hate packing; packing is just the first step in a long and complicated series of actions that ultimately ends in undoing the first step that took so long in the first place.  But unpacking is the final step before order is restored and chaos is banished and life can return to its smooth path.

On Friday, I began the last unpacking.  I only began it because most of our things (5900 pounds of things) are still somewhere out in the vast unexplored space between here and Belgium, making their obscure and circuitous way from the packing in Baku to the unpacking in Dushanbe.  But I was able to make a start on my ten suitcases, two welcome kits, and a thousand pounds of UAB.  The ton of consumables that showed up on the same day as the UAB is patiently waiting until shelves are constructed for its ow turn at unpacking.

Both shipments had been helpfully stashed in Eleanor's room on the second floor, it being the only clean room in the entire house on the day the shipments were delivered, so Brandon manned the boxes as the rest of us scurried up and down the stairs carrying toys and diaper bins and books and clothing and computers and blankets to their appointed place.  When we hit gold, Brandon sent me down to the kitchen to make order out of the chaos brought to me one newsprint-wrapped bundle at a time.  Sophia or Kathleen would burst into the kitchen, shout "Merry Christmas" as the newest bundle was torn open to reveal a gravy separator or bouquet of spatulas, then scurry up the stairs to bring more packages of unknown and mysterious contents.

After several visits, I had to wade through the drifts of paper that collected around my ankles as I considered where to best put my newest delivery of treasures.  The warm afternoon sun crept across the wall as I imagined myself cooking birthday cakes, making ice cream, and frying chicken in my new kitchen.  After an hour or so of carefully considering the best home for my pans and appliances and canisters and dishes I began shoveling paper drifts from the floor and clearing small piles of detritus from the countertop.  The small uncategorizable things went into that cupboard that always collects those things.  Things that no longer belonged in the kitchen went to their appropriate homes.  A few stray items found their places.  I fetched a cloth and wiped down the now-empty counters.  And then I sat down for a rest.

I found myself thinking of how long it would be before I packed up the unpacked things.  A few weeks, a few months?  No, a few years.  The kitchen was so new and fresh and unknown.  The stove was untried - would it cook slow or hot; what setting would be perfect for simmering, for doughnuts?  The refrigerator was nearly empty; would it have room for all of the leftovers?  My brand new freezer was pristine, waiting to receive the first batch of homemade bread that would fill our new strange house with its old familiar aroma.

This kitchen was still foreign to me, untried and strange.  But in time it would be like the oldest of friends, familiar and comforting.  It would keep me company as I waited for Brandon to come home after a long day of work.  I would fill it with mashed potatoes and stuffing and rolls and sweet potato casserole and just barely fit a turkey in its tiny oven.  In the summer I would watch the children play in the courtyard as the windows let in a cool evening breeze.  Eleanor would pull all of the tupperware out of its drawers.  We would dance to Bill Withers.  We would sing "Happy Birthday."  I would cry.  I would laugh.  I would spank the children.  I would kiss my husband.

And then one day, I would pack it up and leave it, with the memories drifting in the air, hiding in the dark corners of the cupboard.  Someone else would move in and their memories would crowd my own out.

But not yet.  Not this year, or the next.  Not for a long, long time.


S said...

Can I say that I admire your work ethic? Im so impressed that you can just keep packing and unpacking with all your kids etc. go Ashley! And why do they move you every two years? Why not let people stay?

Mikayla said...

Our movers are coming tomorrow. i read your posts and long to be in your shoes--with the process coming to an end. This has been a difficult one. We are anxious to join you in Dushanbe and start our own strange, new adventure.

Thanks for writing and giving us hope that the process does come to a happy ending--there IS light at the end of the tunnel!