It has been a month since closing on the new place. Autumn named it The Bubble House, because the first time she was there, the inspector was running the Jacuzzi. I toured a few more rooms with her before she made a request:
“Bubbles,” she said, hoping to revisit the bathroom. And the name stuck. It strikes me as ironic, this nickname, since moving is actually bursting her bubble -- the COVID cocoon of Nana and Papa's house where she has spent her entire life.
“This is for Bubble,” I tell her after a Winnie the Pooh wall hanging is delivered, along with a deluge of other knick-knacks. I have ordered so many items for the new house that the other day, as I was driving to pick up furniture purchased on-line, I had a thought:
I’m picking up stuff so I can store more stuff.
My mind began simmering with the idea of how stuff begets stuff. You purchase a TV, and then you need a stand. Even if you have a mount, you need a vessel to hold all the components that go with the television. The same holds true for nearly every purchase. My table required a rug underneath and chairs needed pads for each leg. There’s a special cleaner for the marble surface, and a particular cloth that doesn’t scratch. Obsessing over the concept of things requiring more things caused my brain to become stuffed, resulting in a three-day headache. In the midst of boxes scattered throughout my new place, and more items arriving daily, I began pondering my year in Australia when I lived only off the contents of my backpack. What changed from then until now? Why am I wasting so much money and time getting and organizing stuff? I came up with this theory:
Retail therapy shifts my focus.
Contemplating the color of the pillow covers on Autumn’s new bed distracts me from replaying the conversation I had with her about moving.
“No Bubble,” she said. “Dis. Home.” She was standing in my parents’ living room, her arms showcasing the space like a game show prize.
I understood, and then to gauge her reaction, I responded:
“You can stay with Nana and Papa and Mommy will move.”
“No,” she said, adding a look that read I want you to stay here, too. Admittedly, here has been great – irreplaceable bonding for grandparents and baby, and reconnecting with my mom and dad as a new mom. But also, it has been cluttered. I am crowded with opinions of what to feed Autumn and how to dress her. And then there’s the chaos that has inundated the living room. For two years, my mom has begged often for one thing:
“I just need a path to get through to feed the bird.”
But paths, both through rooms — littered with toys — and through life — burdened with hurdles — are not easy to come by. For most of my years, I’ve wandered from place to place, hovering over the concept of setting down roots. Roots are confining and stagnant, I told myself. But now, after committing to a daughter and a house, I can see that they are also liberating, comforting, and most of all stable. Yet still, rooting is scary, and so too, is uprooting.
I had planned to surprise Autumn at Bubble on her real birthday with a new play kitchen, but four days prior, I was worrying about her transition, and so I had an idea.
“Let’s go to Bubble now for your birthday gifts,” I said, hoping that cool toys would help ease her anxiety. And they did. That afternoon, she turned on her new burners and cut wooden fruit held together by velcro. She opened and closed her microwave, and stacked pots on her new shelves.
“Do you like Bubble now?” I said.
With a big smile on her face, she shrieked, “Yeah!”
And I suppose that’s how it’s going to be for us throughout the next few months while we still live with Nana and Papa, but slowly move our things. Some days excited, other times melancholy – kind of the way it always is with change. I’m grateful now, too, that little people come with pint-sized problems that have simple solutions. If only all the world’s issues could be resolved with an Ikea purchase.