that was then, this is now

Posted by on July 6, 2007


I feel that I should say something about our recent move, even though the sum total of my life and thoughts right now are already on other things. The major work of getting all our boxes and furniture up the two flights of rubberized stairs, with the help of many friends, was finished when I took this photo, and the afternoon light was coming into our new bedroom, where the dissembled bed parts were propped against boxes and chests of drawers. I thought it looked beautiful in the moment, although, as usual, the lighting in my photo looks much more dim and dank than the real thing did on moving day. Or maybe the camera captured the real thing and the beauty was only in my perception.

Maybe this instance of afternoon light impressed me because we had no afternoon light in our old apartment, which featured only eastern-facing windows. Or maybe it seemed beautiful in the way that ordinary food seems unusually savory after physical labor– I needed something poetic after the tunnel vision of gathering every last clothes hanger, extension cord, baby sock, and ceramic bowl into boxes over the course of a week. Getting all of your possessions completely out of one dwelling and into another in one day can incite a euphoria which makes the shadow of a crooked bedpost look scenic.

Also, this moment of afternoon light represented the calm in-between space between packing and unpacking. That night, we could clear a floor space to plunk down our mattresses and sleep heavily after a day of accomplishment. The next day we would have to deal with all the decisions about where to put things while constantly keeping vigil over curious, crawling, climbing, tender-limbed, with no-sense-of-danger, little Esme.

We’re almost situated now, and mostly, I keep thinking about how we toured the Notre Dame married-student-with-children apartments a year ago and our jaws dropped when we saw how tiny and plain they were. They seemed frankly awful and out of the question at the time, but a few months ago, while visiting my friend Manuela who lives here, I realized they weren’t all that bad. In fact, after looking into the housing market here and encountering a mixed bag of uncertainties, Notre Dame housing seemed like the better choice, after all.

Our books were in boxes for almost a year in our old apartment. This time, we determined to unpack them, and now they are sitting on their shelves, warming up the room with many-colored spines. I wanted a short, easy, paperback to read in between the chaos of unpacking, and found an old copy of That Was Then, This is Now, by S. E. Hinton. There are teenagers on the cover who look like 80s teen movie stars, feathered bangs and all the rest, and a circular starburst sticker that says “special school edition.” It’s a good book though, and the title, which, I think, was a popular teen cliche a few decades ago (at least, I remember my big sister always throwing it around as an accessory of coolness), is a good one too, and should probably come back into circulation.

No explanation is necessary for why perspectives, attitudes, and thoughts about places and people and self sometimes turn completely around with time and experience, even though many intricate explanations could be offered. “Having kids really changes the way you look at a town,” is one very common, and true, explanation I hear a lot, and have said myself in conversations on the playground. I went from scorning, to liking the entire state of Indiana, from turning my nose up at the University Village apartments a year ago, to feeling privileged and happy to live here. I went from thinking I couldn’t take apartment living any longer, to knowing for sure that I’m not ready to own a house, and realizing that I have a few more years of apartment-dweller stamina in me yet. I usually try to explain myself to myself, and to whoever has the patience to listen, in the kind of words you have to chase down, rearrange and beat into cooperation to express and explain things perfectly– words not ready-made. But right now, being tired from unpacking, and also content to move on to other thoughts and figurings, I’d rather bow out and let this cliche serve to account for all of my shifting–seemingly fickle– perspectives and attitudes over the last two years.