Have been digging out the attic, practically with a shovel, so that Matt and I can move in there. We hope to establish a carefree bohemian detached existence by giving up our bedroom to the three little girls, who will give up theirs to their brothers, who will give up theirs basically to me who feels uncomfortable when there’s no proper Spare Oom. Everybody is already horning in on that dream, even though it doesn’t exist yet (I’ll study in there, I’ll fold laundry in there, I’ll just sit in there and stare at the wall…) and there are bitter fights breaking out all over about how to arrange furniture in rooms that nobody has even moved into yet.
Meanwhile, I’m up in the attic sorting through boxes of carefully saved paper and ‘objets,’ those remnants of a life gone by, the people we all were yesterday.
Box by box I’ve been silently grateful that there was no social media when I was in college and that none of my children have figured out how to sign up for any of it yet. I found a picture of myself, young, wearing tennis shoes (! I must have been ill or something) bowed under the weight of an enormous computer monitor, one of those great massive hulking beasts that took up the whole desk. But when you plugged one of those modem things into it, and pushed send/receive, it would deliver up upon its screen long form thoughtful communication (that’s what email used to be) from family and close friends. You could sit in front of it’s blinking, gray face and respond, in a matter of minutes be connected to the people you loved best.
You could even lean forward in your cramped chair and type up an essay, which you had sketched out by hand in a notebook after wandering up and down the stacks, piling up books which you read by turning the pages all night in a big fat chair. At no point did you snap a picture of yourself pouring over your books. There was no 8 am selfie when you managed to print out the wretched thing and sprint across the quad to turn it in, hashtag that time you waited till the last minute to write that paper. There was, in fact, no self-consideration at all. You just did the work and then moved on with your life. The only way you remember it is because someone else snapped a photograph on one of those old camera things, got the film developed, and handed you the result.
Today is the long, bitter process of lugging all of my stuff out of this serene, beautiful room, drawer by drawer, into the very treetops, the drafty, not quite all the way insulated attic. The little girls are eager for me to get on with it. Every few minutes they ask when I am moving the furniture out. They come in with a measuring tape to make sure their plan still makes sense.
Every now and then I put my phone down and forget where that was. “Where is my phone?” I cry, like an abandoned baby bird, no way to orient myself in time and space. Someone will find it and bring it to me. Last night I found fifty pictures taken by children who had obediently found it and brought it to me, but who thought they would snap some pictures as well.
It’s good to put yourself into the hands of others sometimes. To give up your own life for another, and your own phone, your own point of view.