Monday, June 3, 2013

Bare Cupboards

The cabinets are slowly emptying. The refrigerator contains little more than pickles and condiments. I am washing walls and baseboards in preparation: we leave in a few days to spend the summer away.

It's a splendid opportunity. My husband's family has a traditional summer "camp" in another state which we visit every other summer. There's a lake and sailing and a motorboat. We have a tennis court and a wide array of warped wooden tennis rackets which add a hilarious unpredictability to the game. We've strung a hammock. We have a croquet set. Everyone we know is invited to visit for however long they can. Some do, and there's a delightful confluence of strangers-become-friends eating, playing cards, staying up late drinking and discussing every topic imaginable.

There was a period during which maintenance was sporadic. Leaks developed. Shrubbery became overgrown. Foundations sank. With each visit we make it a little better -- cleaning, repairing, updating. I take before- and after-pictures to document the transformation. Still, we leave with project lists for the next visit, then spend days deciphering what our cryptic notes mean when we begin packing anew.

Packing takes weeks of planning. There are lists and spreadsheets. We make piles in the basement, in the living room, in the garage. Fitting everything into a pickup truck is a jigsaw puzzle made more complicated by the need to save space for four people and two dogs. Over time I've taken less and less. Babies require far more equipment than toddlers and my children are now old enough that they require little more than books and clothes.

Traveling so far away, for so long, requires a paring. A cutting back of wants and needs. At home I have a knife block with ten different viciously sharp knives. There I use two. Five hundred CDs are replaced by a single radio station. Three or four highly recommended novels go into my bag; I leave behind stacks of unread books on my bedside table and dresser. Three pair of shoes cover the entire summer: sneakers, flip flops, and a pair of flats, just in case. Upon my return I will be appalled at the excesses of space and goods in my home, even though I claim to live simply.

I speak enthusiastically about our trip, but there's a hesitation in my heart this year. I believe it's a factor of time and distance. We are not moving, or relocating. That would imply a permanence and sense of purpose. This is a dislocation. Our summer routines will be just the same -- eating, cooking, cleaning, learning, reading, writing, playing, exploring -- but elsewhereSometimes I wake from a dream disoriented, unable to find the lines between realities. The same happens with our summers away. Upon our return the weeks seem dreamlike and our regular lives resume immediately, as if nothing happened.

We leave in four days. We will drive unceasing to Ohio, then collapse for a night before pushing on. I hope to arrive in the daylight. We have, in the past, arrived late and with no electricity. By the light of headlamps we did just enough unwrapping so that we each had a mattress, then collapsed into sleeping bags. Morning light squeezed between gaps in the shutters and we woke to the possibilities our our temporary home. Despite my trepidation this year, whatever time we arrive I will wake to a marvelous dream.


  1. Oh, it sounds like a marvelous adventure. A real, deep, disconnection with everyday life. A vacating. I hope it's good to you and for you.

  2. How exciting - yet I understand the twinge of apprehension. Good luck with all the preparation!

    Your writing is lovely. I can practically smell the camp!