I’ve been home a week now and am starting to get used to the house again. True, it is almost entirely new and different inside, but the layout, light switches, windows, and most importantly, the feeling are all the same. There are still a few minor fixes needed here and there and the outside painting is not yet done, but basically the house is done. Now the work begins – unpacking and settling in.
I had already decided not to unpack most of what the contractor boxed up – books and some miscellaneous items. Despite the beauty of my new house, I still plan to sell it when it’s all finished. No sense in unpacking hundreds of books and then packing them up again in a few months. I don’t have any bookcases, either. Most of them were ruined in the fire and I’m waiting until I can measure space in my future empty nest home before replacing them. Actually, the contractor has not delivered the boxes and the surviving furniture yet. No point, really, until he can clean out the garage after painting the house. However, I have replaced most of my kitchen, bathroom, and personal items over the summer; they fill a couple dozen boxes. And then the clothing restoration people came.
I never realized just how many clothes and linens I had collected over the years. Sure, some are baby and children’s clothing kept for sentimental reasons (and possible grandchildren in the future) and some are clothes in a smaller size that I’ve kept for motivation to lose weight (as do many women). But a lot of them are mine in my current size, more or less. I had forgotten that I had skirts and jackets and dresses and, of course, more shoes and purses. The fire was in May, so I had already put all cool weather clothing away. Unpacking them was kind of like greeting old friends again. Then came the linens. I had been skeptical that the smoky burn smell could ever be totally removed from my comforters, but the company did a good job. I probably shouldn’t have bought the new quilt, but I’m not taking it back!
As I unpacked the napkins and placemats and sheets and towels, I put them into three piles: toss, donate, put away. I hadn’t finished weeding out and downscaling my personal property before the fire and there was no chance to do it immediately afterwards, so anything spotted, stained, or just drab with age had been collected and cleaned along with the good stuff. The ‘toss’ pile grew quickly. Anything I didn’t really like anymore went into the ‘donate’ pile. Every once in a while, I’d unpack a box to discover something cherished, something I thought lost in the fire. I had some white lace curtains from Germany – Gardinen – with different picture patterns. One salvaged set had a design showing toys and children, bought many years ago when my two were toddlers. The last time I was in Germany, I had visited some good friends outside of Cologne (Köln) and shopped for some new lace curtains in their town. They had looked lovely in my kitchen, but as the kitchen was the scene of the fire, I assumed they were long gone. One of the curtains survived! It’s just one small curtain, but whenever I see it, I remember shopping one summer day with Fiona as she pushed a stroller with two small children through the streets and stores, helping me find the curtains. Afterwards we stopped at a café for some ice cream. Forward five years – I haven’t returned to Germany and Fiona now has four children, two of whom I’ve never met. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get back to see them, so I treasure the rescued curtain even more for the memories it evokes.