My husband and I are moving from our home of 36 years.
After much soul-searching, we decided that our 73-year-old stone colonial in Pleasant Hills no longer meets our changing physical abilities. Since we are among the vanguard of baby boomers, we set out to find a suitable one-story living space before we're in competition with hordes of other aging 60-somethings.
"Location" became the first focus. Should we stay in our old neighborhood, close to those daily destinations that are so familiar, or should we move closer to our adult children and their families? They both live in the Pittsburgh area, but to visit them we must venture "across a river." Anyone who has lived in Pittsburgh knows that bridges across rivers are analogous to border crossings between foreign countries.
The local connection won.
Next came "the hunt." We began, like so many, by looking online. We considered new construction, single-family homes, condos -- even rental apartments. Eventually, we enlisted the help of a real estate agent. Mike is not just any agent; he was my student when I was a teacher, and so when we accidentally ran into him, he became our guide.
His enthusiasm energized us. His mantra, "We will find the right house for you," resonated throughout our seven-month search. He never lost faith. We finally bought a townhouse near our current neighborhood.
Now comes "the move." Take the contents of 36 years, deceased parents, the selling and dismantling of a second home, and the reality of having less storage space in the new home, and you know that our current activity is "downsizing." Our home is stuffed with stuff.
Our philosophy has become, "One day, one drawer." We have read online about how to downsize -- one pile marked "keep," one marked "donate," one marked "toss." That works in theory.
Let our reality be a lesson to all: As soon as an object is designated as "donate," get it out of the house. Often a second look causes the spouse (read: husband) to "reconsider" and to move said object back to the "keep" pile. Truly, "things" are often more than just objects. For example, there is the Christening outfit that was my husband's, saved by his mother in her cedar chest, in addition to his crib, whose use today would probably bring the baby police.
There is the bunch of resin grapes that was my first craft project. One large drawer in my dresser is filled with greeting cards that mark anniversaries, Mother's Days and my husband's retirement, along with hand-made cards from my children.
There are photographs contained in 10 linear feet of albums. They range from black-and-white deckle-edged photos of unidentifiable people, long gone now, to calendars made on cyber-sites.
We still have equipment from technologies that my son calls "Third generation, Mom -- not worth five cents." We have CD players and scanners and two printers and double-deck cassette tape players whose resultant carcasses now litter yet another drawer.
We have record albums. (Who could throw away the cover of the Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers"?) We have boxes of 45s. And how would we hear the recorded voices of our children at age 1 if we tossed that old recording device?
One look around our living room tells us we need to get rid of that baby grand piano, the velvet couch that was our family dog's only sleeping place, and the brass and glass shelves.
We want to abandon the old "formal living room" that no one sat in for a "great room" concept. We need to buy furniture for the "loft" and a huge TV for the new game room. We want stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors. We are getting older but not giving in to old age. We are young at heart.
Now we mark our days and our family history day by day, drawer by drawer. Sometimes we bite the bullet and donate the vintage sports coat from fraternity days or my mother's epergne. Some purging is easy, but some things resonate far beyond practicality to emotion. The angst of letting go is real and difficult.
But one problem was recently solved when I got a phone call from my sister.
"Polly," she said, "I know you are moving, and I was just wondering -- what are you going to do with Mom's chandelier?"
Paula Rigo, a retired Thomas Jefferson High School English teacher, can be reached at email@example.com.The PG Portfolio welcomes "Local Dispatch" submissions and other reader essays. Send your writing to firstname.lastname@example.org; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255. First Published October 8, 2013 8:00 PM