Updated: Jan 29
Shannon and I chose to live in a small house. That is, after we renovated an old farm house from the 1880's. Still, after all of the work we put into it, it's still a small house. And with two growing boys, space often comes at a premium.
Since being married, we've moved three times. Most of the time, when you talk to someone who's moved a few times, the conversation almost always lends itself to how many boxes seem to migrate with you from place to place that go opened up and un-dealt with.
Such unboxing has been our last few weekends. But let me preface this with the fact that when we had work done to the house, which was a barn really, I was contacted by the contractor one day during excavation who informed me that the house was built on organic soils, which is short for "you've got more digging to do. And more like, "you've got more money to spend."
The house was built upon a series of natural springs, which is why we couldn't build up or further out. Our plans of a boutique two-story, story-book house in the woods came to a screeching halt. Instead of spending money on cool finishes, we had to spend it on a soil Engineer and super crazy foundation methods - the same that were applied to the original World Trade Center I later learned.
In short, the basement we dreamt of finishing was left unfinished. Dry, but unfinished. I'm sure that we could have the spent additional money to finish it, but the water issue had me spooked, and I wanted to save at least something so that we could pay for a car repair or an emergency room visit if they arose, and so we ended up doing what any other exhausted couple with young kids and frayed nerves would do. We took tons of unopened boxes from the move and parked them down there. And then we promptly forgot about them.
The house isn't much to look at from the outside really, but it's the property that drew us here. Living outside of the city and being able to do pretty much whatever you want our here has been great. I've been able to work amongst the trees - both physically and through guiding walks. The pond, cave and waterfall are features that can't be beat, and anytime I go out back, it's like going to church. So, the house is sort of a functional Hobbit house, where my friends literally duck as they walk through it. It's a good thing that Shannon is such a good decorator, as our house really has a cool Bohemian vibe and everything about the property does scream unique. So, I can't complain.
Back to the story. On a recent New Year's Eve as Shannon and I sipped some beers and talked about the upcoming year, we agreed to tackle the problem of making more play space for our boys. Their rooms might as well be both library and Lego museum, with barely any room to walk. Good luck to the brave soul who even steps barefoot on a Lego in there. Being kids of the 80's, we realized that both of us grew up playing in unfinished basements. It wasn't until we were both in high school or college when the concept of hanging out in a finished basement was even thought of.
Almost any fond memory I have of growing up, didn't include carpet and televisions or pool tables and bars - not that I could have enjoyed those anyways. And when I played at friends houses, who did have "finished" basements, the floor was usually some outdated, or left-over vinyl flooring, with wood paneling on the walls, some ratty old, smoke-encrusted furniture and tiffany-style lamps that made me feel like I was a newsie back in the 20's.
So, we deiced that we'd convert the portion of the basement that could be used into a Lego and toy space for the boys, and a place where I could watch games and scream at the television in relative seclusion. With that in mind, we realized very quickly, that this plan pitted us directly in the path of all of those boxes, filled with STUFF from the past.
We understood that it was a daunting task, but perhaps one that was overdue, both in physical sense, but also in a spiritual sense.
Lo, the treasures that each box has revealed over the past four weekends. College ID cards, overly emotional and unnecessary journals from our 20's, belt buckle collections, college essays, books we thought were important to keep in order to impress important people, old cell phones - each one an exact dinosaur to the next - and then the ushering in of baby supplies, toys, more pictures, CD's and t-shirts from my band days, and our "coveted" DVD collection that now rung hollow against the endless and gluttonous power of content streaming.
Just box upon box. Thing upon thing. Each one, drawing us back to the good times we enjoyed and the trials we endured as life brought us together, and then blessed us with two children on the spectrum. With slices of box cutters across the tape covering the seams, each cardboard tomb opened up as if they were time capsules, both entertaining and humbling us as went. Slowly, but methodically we started to make order of the space, opening up to each other about how far we've come, and how we'd never go back to our 20's and 30's - except for the bodily benefits.
Having dreams about your basement belies the notion that you need to deal with things. I've been having dreams of late that I'm in our basement, but I'm desperately trying to gather everything in preparation for some kind of trip. But I know I simply can't accomplish this. Even in the dream, I know this is a fool's errand, but I keep trying, until I realize that I can't hold anything in my hands at all and I've missed my car, or bus or flight.
I've been on a journey lately, one where I feel the need to let go of things. And so, with this latest home project, I've donated boxes upon boxes of books that never really meant anything to me, shredded dozens of old journals and college notebooks, given away old toys to kids who need them more than I do at this stage of my life, pared down my music equipment (who needs 10 guitars, seriously?) and asked myself the general question, has this object contributed to the person I am, right now? If the answer has been no, then it gets donated and makes more room for the person I'm becoming.
It's sometimes shocking to me that I'm now heading towards the latter half of my life. I can't afford to continue to look back, but when I do, it feels more appropriate to call it a "beneathing" of sorts. A deep understanding that all events and things led me to this point, but they don't need to examined much further. They're just things I went through. Like sentences building upon each other towards turning the next page, towards finishing the next chapter, towards finishing the story.
I've come to learn and love the things of the forest and the lessons of the trees. When I go out there, I'm never met with instant wisdom or huge revelations. I'm met instead with silence. And patience. Acceptance is knowing that the world will come as it may. That someone or some storm, or the groan of old age will eventually take that tree, or us, down at some point. That each woody spirit will live, and then go somewhere else.
Perhaps as a curio in a box, uncovered with surprise and wonder until it's released into another's keeping.