Mantle

I’m moving furniture tonight. Sometimes moving furniture helps me get unstuck, jolted out of a space where I can’t make sense. Tonight I’m doing it because I need familiar things around me. The kids (sans one) will be coming over for Thanksgiving, and I want this to feel like a home, something they’re familiar with. Not just Mom and Dad’s apartment in Portland.

Back when we lived in a house with a fireplace, I picked up this strange furniture item that looks rather like a mantle piece. I didn’t need it, but I loved it when I first set eyes on it. I still don’t know what it is; made of wood, with two hollow wood plinths that are separate from the top, I don’t think it really could be a mantle, since it wouldn’t be fireproof. The top section has three compartments, two of which have hand-carved drawers. It’s odd and not really practical. But I love it anyway. I loved it enough to pack it in the POD and bring it out here, and then keep it even through the great purge.

Today I dug it out from the storage locker and brought it to the apartment. It’s replacing my TV table, useless in its own right because I really don’t want a TV anymore but we have one, a flat screen that I got for free (there’s no other way I’d have this in my house, to be frank). We like to watch hockey on it.

Right now I’m not watching much of anything. The odd streaming show at lunchtime, or an episode of something I used to watch. Mostly right now I’m staring off into space, trying not to think about the darkness that’s closing in.

My mantle is an effort to normalize my day-to-day life, to feel connected to what went before, to my life and memories from years ago. Something to touch and remind myself.

I’ll decorate for the holidays soon. All of my decor is here now, so I’ll see all the kids’ ornaments and cry at each little figure and memory. I’ll have a tree like I used to have; chaotic, rambling with the music of their childhoods.

We won’t be in this apartment much longer. I don’t know where we’ll be. So right now, I want to feel familiar, safe. Gosh, there’s a word that has lost its meaning for me. Safe. Nothing feels safe anymore. Nothing is reliable or predictable. There’s no knowing what will happen next. There’s no lying down to sweet dreams and waking to a bright happy day. There’s forgetting for a few moments until I fall asleep, and then forgetting for a few moments before I’m fully awake.

I’m making the feast this year, the whole nine yards. Making comfort for the family is what I do best. Mothering is all I can offer right now. Stability, strength, serenity and self-care are the words Tim and I are using to guide us. Our young humans come over for dinner, we’ll play some board games–but maybe not Cards Against Humanity this year; reality is already too outrageous–and take a few hours to feel like we used to feel.

As usual, there are lyrics to a Bruce Cockburn song that seem particularly apt.

You’re as loved as you were
Before the strangeness swept through
Our bodies, our houses, our streets —
When we could speak without codes
And light swirled around like
Wind-blown petals

We’re speaking in codes now. We have secret codes to identify safe people, and codes for meetings of activists. This is certainly some strangeness that has swept through our streets. I wonder if anyone has a ration of light to share.

 

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