Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On Apartments

I have recently moved into an apartment for the first time in my life. So much newness. My first obstacle to overcome was my own snobbery. I’ve been a home-owner since I was in College due to inclement hallways and a senior year of bad roommates where I committed the evil sin of leaving the one beloved roommate behind.

The first thing I noticed when I moved was my age. I didn’t fit the bill -much older than half of the residents; much younger than the other half. Ironically, my children and those of the other tenants all seemed to be the same age. There is the blue-haired lady who wears red lips and heels to help her into a whopping 5’2”, the girl who may have been my student a few years ago, the overbearing older men –always willing to hold a door and offer a beer -and the younger men who look down when I walk by so as not to get in trouble with their girlfriends, the maintenance man who has fixed all of my problems within minutes of my asking and has no problem lingering for conversation.

And there is the distant curiosity. The anti-snob factor, if you will. I watch the pierced mother sledding with her daughter every day. I see that the blue haired lady doesn’t have to walk far in her high heels and high hair; her husband, gentlemanly and serene, pulls up the car to the rear door so she doesn’t slip. The middle-aged men and their ladies cleaning off a car together, cigarette smoke blending with the winter breath, laughing and invisible to critical neighboring spies. The lonely divorcee who might be a saving grace to more than just his children.


I learned time. Quite by accident, I learned that icicle factory in the sink is not a six a.m. activity. Hammers are strictly afternoon tools. I learned that my need to be done with the weekly housework before I shower should not include vacuuming; those fall in the same category as hammers, as do musical instruments, super-man capes, and children’s video’s that encourage children to, “say it louder!” Evening activities go on even after I’ve fallen asleep at the late hour of 8:30, as evidenced by parking cars, stair climbing, and door closing/key jingling. In sum, time and noise are one and should be respected in conjunction with the hours one can visit the attic.
I’ve found that cigarettes permeate more intensely than incense, candles, or bad fish. They are locked into the paint, seeping into the hallways from neighborly apartments, floating up from the balcony into the eaves of the sliding doors. Even when the smell is less direct, the obtrusive allergen re-fills the room in time for me to return home from my shopping or what have you. In the same fashion, dust seems more unruly than it did in a large home with dogs, cats, and no vacuum. My furniture has developed a magnetic field for dead skin and other flaky masses.

I’ve also learned the value of drop-cloths. In my stubbornness, I insisted that my plants move in with me to make up for the no pet factor and they are a bit intrusive on the size of the living-room. I am glad to say that my plants are now house-broken. Where they used to leak and destroy wood, carpets, and walls, they now keep it on the plastic or to themselves. The plants do like it here. They get more attention due to the small living quarters of pots and seem to be adjusting well. Only the peonies remain in hibernation.

I found that my minute bathroom does two new things. In my home, I had a jet-powered tub with ample space surrounding for candles, salts, and pampering. The only problem was that there was no water pressure so it took over a half hour to fill and the bathroom never warmed up enough to balance the bathtub temp. Being that this tub is a, “normal” size, it fills up within minutes in the single digits and the bathroom air works as a humidifier rain-forest. The toilet seat acts as its own stunt double acting as a table for awry candle wax and mug stains.

I’ve also discovered my couch. This beautiful mission seat was the perfect company companion for years in a ginormous living-room, but I only used it when company was there. My kids were in their beds upstairs and sleepy children do not do stairs well so I usually stayed in my room to read and write and watch movies after they went to sleep. At one point I had all of my belongings in my room so that I could keep safe behind a bureau-barred-door without fear of destruction. More than two thousand square feet of living space and I confined myself to 12x12 feet and a closet. I never grew accustomed to that living room. I created my own space of bookshelves, chairs, my easel and my desk, but never ventured to the living room where my beautiful couch begged for my bottom.

For years I turned a plot of dirt into a beautiful yard. I manicured acres, building stone patios –plural. Turning hills into a flat yard, and dirt into soil. Wood into arbors and fences. I worked so hard on that yard. Worked on it and worked on it but never played in it. So much beauty I created. I became slave to a dream of better houses and gardens, never making a home that was within my reach. I kept busy in distraction and dream and whisked my kids to a playground a few miles away, a pool in a gym, and church garden days. I had missed the point.

I believe it is a combination of my distance and enslavement that make moving to an apartment from a Barbie dream home so fluid. I have the opportunity to sit on my couch daily, have taken a bath-bath at least once a week instead of the once a month, and keep my plants green and squirrels fat. My children did not loose a yard, they do not miss being cooped up behind a barred door, and now our kitchen pours itself into the living-room with the fluid transition of bookshelves and light. My guitar, keyboard, and easel are out, and my vacuum is only needed once a week. I watch people instead of looking for my next project, and my voice is returning to me through my brush, my guitar pick, and my writing. I am knocking on doors for the first time in my life, stepping away from the limits of a closed mind, and living fearlessly and without limits.

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