It’s been awhile, nearly 2 years…

since I have written on this site. It’s not like I haven’t thought about it, but four plus months of quarantine gave me the time. Who knew retirement could be so busy? In the past two years, we completed numerous house projects, traveled to many foreign countries–mostly in Central America, celebrated our newest grandbaby (first boy in years), wrote a book, explored everywhere in our new environs, and planted nearly 100 lavender plants over the septic field. Mostly, 2018 and 2019 was unpacking my life. So, here is where I left off.

February, 2016–The snow lasted for two months. I’d call this real snow as opposed to the realtors’ term of decorator snow. Our Boston girl, who braved the record-breaking storms of 2014, would call this nothing.

Sometime in March, spring rains plus snow melt sent a torrent of water cascading towards our house. Remember our steep driveway? Since water takes the most direct route, the river poured off our ski-run of a driveway into the garage, filling a small lake on the garage floor. We squeegeed and stacked sandbags as a temporary measure, then cut and installed a drainage system further upstream. Thanks to Cal Fire who provided bags and sand. Apparently, many roads and homes besides ours were deluged that winter.

Next, I set to salvaging what I could from soggy shipping boxes—nearly twenty boxes from our old house were stacked floor to garage rafters. Into new plastic containers, I tossed Sammy’s gymnastic attire, 4H uniforms, and yearbooks—assorted momentos from our adult childrens’ childhood. Stacks of plaques, a box of ribbons and medals from swim meets, another box of gymnastic medals—these were moved to higher places in the garage until our daughters have their own garages and can store their own memories.

Then there were the boxes of Dad’s things. Dad received more accolades than his four children (sum total) ever earned. Our loving father was accomplished, a fine man, a leader, but he saved everything—Mom’s cards from anniversaries, Valentine’s, Easter, Christmas, and our Father’s Day and birthday cards. It pains to dump these memories, but who has room for this? None of us are hoarders, neither was Dad, yet stacks of boxes attested to his OCD and his loving heart. I dispatched manuals from every appliance he ever owned. I shredded bank account reports and tax statements—no need to keep after 5 years—although Dad’s file box harkened to the 1960s. But recycling floral cards signed the same way every year for 64 years, “Always yours, John” or “Forever yours, Mary”—that takes a stronger person than me, his daughter. Kan-Mari helped.

One bin held Mom’s art lessons and artwork. Another bin held photos from Dad’s work and travels, another a stack of Dad’s treasures— basically things I couldn’t figure out what to do with. Dad’s awards galore: an inscribed rock mounted as a bookend, an SDG&E glass cap from a utility pole, a framed piece of carpet from the San Diego Civic Theater—all thank yous for a lifetime of public work . Someday, his great grandchildren may want this loot; in the meantime, the treasures rest in moisture-proof bins from Target.

Another conundrum is what to do with our family photos. You know the large framed ones? I tried to follow Kan-Mari’s rule of what “sparks joy” while “thanking” each piece, as I waded through the family history. I solved a space problem by inserting older versions of pictures behind the newer ones, creating a sort of evolutionary history like strata of the Grand Canyon. No doubt some photographer is slapping their head saying, “Noooooo!.” Who has room for this stuff? More importantly, each time we add a family member—child, grandchild, in-law—what happens to the picture before? Our family, like most, has seen its share of deaths and divorces.

Dale installed ceiling racks for the boxes, hooks for the bikes and tools. The garage began to look less like a dumping ground and more like a man cave. Okay, not quite. On to the next project—tackling the inside of the house.

Inheritance Part II–Chandelier Changes

Kristy helped me from the garage floor, and we stared at the box and the chandelier. Since the box had been tucked in a far corner of the garage, I guessed Dale placed it there to protect it. Thing is he forgot about it and I didn’t know about it. The chandelier sat for two decades, wrapped in bathroom rugs from my grandmother’s house. Now, despite a film of dust and spider webs, it cast dancing prisms everywhere we looked. I laughed and cried at the irony. Even if twenty years ago I’d known, we couldn’t have afforded to hang the chandelier.

I spent the rest of that day searching the internet for chandelier repair. Since the chandelier was over 50 years, it qualified as an antique, not your standard hanging lamp. I had few options. Next morning as soon as the store opened, I brought it to Lloyd’s of Monterey. The lighting technician checked over the chandelier, no longer wrapped in carpet, but in the same cardboard box. He hesitated. I imagined he didn’t want another project, especially this one.

“It’s going to cost you over $500, maybe more, to fix the broken arm, rewire and replace the plug, and for ‘dressing.'”

He paused and smiled, “You can buy another chandelier for the cost of repairing this one. Have you looked at Home Depot?” He was missing the point. I hoped he was joking, since Lloyd’s sells crystal chandeliers.

“This belonged to my grandmother. I don’t care about the cost. I want it fixed, so I can hang it in my house.”

He reached in to touch some of the crystals. “Okay, well, I’m not sure we’ll be able to fix that broken arm. What color wire do you want? You have choices.”

And the discussion continued. I learned about dressing or how the strands hang, grounds and wires, arms. “Well, when it’s finished it’ll be worth as much as some of our more expensive models in the store. It’s going to take a while. I can’t start on this right away, so if you find a replacement arm on the internet that should save us some time.”

I went to work on my assignment, delivering the replacement arm the following week. A month passed then two, then two and half. I was anxious to see the finished product. No matter that I had waited twenty years already. In the meantime, I mentioned nothing to Dale. I wanted this to be a surprise.

Finally, the day arrived. I had a vision. I would move the existing Italian-style chandelier above our dining table to the master bedroom above our bed. Nana’s crystal chandelier would hang in the dining room, as it should have, long ago. And I hoped the electrician, obviously not me, could finish before Dale returned from work.

For two months, we enjoyed the light fixtures in their new locations. Then, we called the electrician again—this time to remove and repack the lamps; we were moving to Julian. No way was I leaving these pieces behind.