Sunday, August 23, 2009

Friends Indeed

Wow -- just when I needed a boost, before I remembered that I know how to ask for help, a string of people showed up to say just what I needed to hear. Consider this a Thanksgiving Blog -- never mind that today is a summer day with a spring feel to it.

First, in response to my last post came a generous email from Bernice: "I loved your condo the way it was. When you walked in, it said to me 'Pat lives here.' But since you now want it to say, 'Pat lived here,' I guess you are doing the right thing. Just focus on how wonderful it will be to say good-bye to it when you close the door on your way to S.F."

Here I was, busy mourning that the Salmon Sanctuary was changing drastically, failing to take into consideration that it must, to make way for a new owner. In an odd way, this is related to how you are able to send your beloved children halfway across the country to college only because with each passing year in high school, they increasingly annoy you. By the time they are seniors, you are eager to help them pack.

Next, Curtis showed up. We walked a few blocks and had lunch at a great little spot. Curtis mentioned he had been to five funeral services in seven days, and had just come from visiting a friend who recently had back surgery. We stared at one another a few seconds, put down our forks and shared a fist bump. "To good health," we said.

Before he left, Curtis came in to meet Pete the Painter and to pick up two Souvenirs of Pat that I had promised him, both Sumo related. For reasons neither of us can fully explain, we admire and honor the ancient art of Sumo, and I just happened to have two posters here.

Friday evening, my cousin Karen stopped in on her way home from work. I gave her some glassware that had belonged to our grandmother, and then she looked through some of my posters and art. Karen is a self-described "beachy person," so she left with some images of beaches, a concrete mermaid and a metal sculpture of the sun.

On Saturday, Susan and Denny came by to carry off a three-foot-tall ceramic statue of a giraffe. They ended up leaving with a floor lamp, a bottle of bourbon and half a bag of my favorite bread. (Long story; never mind.) Then Judy and Scott popped in to pick up two bookcases that they had kindly loaned me. I sent them home with some excess liquor, a bit of bread and a toy stuffed bear.

Carolyn dropped in later, and helped me rearrange the storage closet so that empty packing boxes were within reach, instead of shoved to the back, behind superfluous furniture. In return, I sent her home with a stack of books for use in her fourth-grade classroom.

This habit I have of sending people home with stuff they did not expect has served me well over the years, but it is not a behavior that is original with my family. Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast practice potlatch, a word that means "to give away" or "a gift." Legend has it that tribal members compete to see who can give away the most, gaining great honor -- not to mention a decluttered home -- in the process.

Today, I contemplated cleaning the baseboards so they will be ready for Pete when he arrives Monday to paint them. Once, in another home long ago and about 10 miles away, I painted right over a dead fly clinging to the baseboard, barely pausing to feel bad about the insect's demise. Pete is not that kind of painter. "You're not working with kids here," he always says.

The phone rang, and Champe asked if I was up for running out the door for coffee. Let's see -- clean the baseboards or go out and play? I went, but not before showing off the transformation in progress. When Champe walked in the kitchen, her jaw dropped. Yes, kitchen cabinets look funny without doors, but oh my, how convenient!

After a run to Starbucks, I stuffed some borrowed books into envelopes and mailed them at the Post Office, I hauled a full box and an empty CD tower to the storage space in the basement and I've just finished cleaning the damn baseboards.

My reward? Finding my friend George's quote (see "comments" on the previous post) from my personal anthem ("Move On") from Stephen Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park with George." Thanks for that, George.

And thanks Bernice, Curtis, Karen, Susan, Denny, Judy, Scott, Carolyn and Champe. Thanks, too, to people who helped with onerous tasks earlier in the week and to people who will be pitching in soon.

All of you have reminded me that I do not have to do this alone. What a relief!


  1. Where would we be without kith and kin. When I moved, Karen and Glenn helped me packed and have the giant garage sale, and my friend Hilarie and her husband cleaned my garage...otherwise, I don't think I would have made it

  2. We emptied our house in the home sale frenzy. Had it painted, refused to have it "staged" professionally, and after 9 months of daily bed making, selling and giving away china, furniture, and odds and ends, then, shoving scattered, sundry items in cubbies when the house was to be shown, only to totally lose track of tax information, bills, notes with phone numbers, invitations and so much more, we removed it from the market. Now, our house feels more minimal and manageable. Still too big for two empty-nesters, so we plan to relist for sale. But when we sell, we will still be in St. Louis, still far from the sea. And we will know someone who sold her condo and moved to San Francisco to be by the sea. And we will take her to dinner in San Francisco and look at the sea with her.