Objects at rest

After the last month and a half had beaten me down emotionally and physically — packing, coordinating home repairs, sending paperwork back and forth to various banks and realtors, working with packers and movers, squeezing in "last" visits and dinners with a lot of very good friends, emptying/cleaning our house and preparing to put it on the market, and then driving two VERY long days in the car while Jack drove the other car in a four-person-and-one-mewing-cat caravan — we finally arrived in Richmond on Sunday night. Our suite-style hotel greeted us warmly, with just enough space to be comfortable. I unpacked quickly to give us some semblance of feeling settled, of feeling at rest instead of in constant, frenzied motion. We each chose a drawer for our clothes, and I put away all of our toiletries and groceries instead of leaving them in bags and boxes. On Monday morning, Jack left for his first day at his new job, and Kent, Dean and I had breakfast and then walked outside to play in the snow. Yep, snow. On our first morning in Virginia. Virginia knew just how to say, "We're glad you're here."

We took a leisurely, chilly walk through the patch of woods behind the hotel, and then we wandered over to an intriguing little market called Tom Leonard's. Kent basically led us through the store, and I realized very quickly that I was going to need to come back prepared to shop, and soon. We had needed to find groceries that day anyway, and this place was perfect, so we walked back to the hotel for my purse and reusable bags. We stopped at the wishing well on the way in, and we tossed in a few coins for the charity that they give the money to each week. I taught Kent the very ancient tradition of keeping your wish to yourself if you want it to come true. This kid has so much trouble keeping secrets that I can't believe he hasn't told me about it yet. He's so funny with his new big secret. Kent and Dean also sat on the cow statue out front so I could snap a few pictures, even though I'm sure their tiny butts were freezing. They loved it.

This market has a lovely, colorful selection and great prices on produce, dairy, and meat, with fun extras like homemade mozzarella, pico de gallo, and ciabatta bread. I couldn't resist the promise of a lunch of mozzarella, tomatoes, lettuce, and ciabatta drizzled with the balsamic vinegar I had brought along with us. I also bought asparagus and shallots and pasta sauce, let Kent pick out his own apples, and turned the last corner to see beautiful bottles of wine and a beer cooler with (be still, my heart) some Abita beer, all the way from Louisiana.

Ordinarily, grocery shopping with both of my kids stresses me out. Like, so much that I usually refuse to do it. I either go with Dean while Kent is in school, or I wait until after dinner when Jack can stay home with them. Occasionally, when I pick up Kent from school, I realize that I *have* to get a couple of things for dinner, and he rolls his eyes and says, "Why didn't you go while I was in school?!" Yes, why indeed? We go to Target, and I buy them popcorn so they will eat while I dash through the store, determined to finish my errand before they finish their snack. But this grocery trip was different. See, we're in vacation mode. I'm in no hurry to be anywhere, and I'm a creative and patient mom right now. This is such a welcomed change from our frantic days as we prepared to leave Baton Rouge. The only exception to my new, infinite, vacation-mode patience was when I was carrying three heavy bags and a gallon of milk back to the hotel, and I was trying to urge a very reluctant two-year-old to walk faster through the snow... but for the rest of the time, I'm in no hurry.

My kids are usually in vacation mode, I've realized. I just need to listen to them more often and let them remind me to slow down.

After our intense month-and-a-half when we were getting ready to move, I am relishing this feeling of leisure and peace. Cleaning the "house" takes about ten minutes. On Fridays, they're going to clean for us. Putting the toys away means picking up the few treasured toys and books we brought in the car with us, then placing them into one drawer of the dresser instead of sorting them into multiple shelves, baskets, and bins. Doing the dishes takes about two minutes, because there are exactly two burners and three pans. No oven. This is hard in a lot of ways, because I do love ovens, and I have already assured Jack that once we're in our hew house, I will go into full-on baking mode and bake bread and cookies, roast vegetables, and make lasagna and enchiladas while we're unpacking. But for now, I have no oven. Who has an oven on vacation, anyway? Not us. We will eat sautéed veggies and pasta, fresh salads, bread from the market, quesadillas, risotto... and when the ideas run out, we might eat some weird microwavable foods on occasion.

If we can live in this sort of simplicity for a month, why not longer? Why do we surround ourselves with all the other stuff that those movers loaded onto the truck? Sure, there are justifications for all of the kitchen tools, the extra clothes, the books I can't part with, the other toys, the linens, the instruments, the CDs, the electronics... but there are also a lot of reasons to get rid of a sizable chunk of it. I had multiple friends suggesting that we use the packing time to weed out our belongings, but I was so busy with every other aspect of our sudden move that I couldn't make the time to take more than two carloads of stuff to Goodwill, figuring I'll have more time to go through things as we're unpacking. Purging mode felt SO good, and once I started, I found it surprisingly easy to part with some of the things that I had kept for years for absolutely no reason. I have to be even more brutal, though.

We generally live in clutter, and I'm eager for the opportunity to change that. Our new house will have dedicated spaces for a lot of the things that used to be jam-packed on top of each other, but I know that if we don't stay on top of the putting-away and the cleaning, we'll clutter this house just as badly as we have all the other, smaller spaces we've lived in. I'm taking this month to train myself to do better. I'm also trying to encourage Jack and the kids to do better, because I can't do it alone.

My first morning here, I started some tomato, watermelon, spinach, and pea seeds that I plan to put in the ground as soon as I can prepare a garden at our new house. I didn't bring most of my plants, but I couldn't bear to part with the two blueberry bushes I bought last fall and hadn't planted in the ground yet, so those rode in the car with us and are currently parked by the window here in our hotel room. Dreaming about our new space is so much darn fun. Thinking about putting down roots, both literal and figurative ones, is so attractive, and it helps me to feel like I actually live here already.

So far, Richmond is working out very nicely.

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