Freedom's Just Another Word For Nothing Left to Sell
May 19, 2000
The evolution in the division of labor between Douglas and me, since we left our jobs a couple of weeks ago, has surprised me more than many things that have happened to us since we began our preparations to go cruising this summer. We've both always had demanding professional careers and accommodated one another's responsibilities pretty much equally. Outside that, the chores of our personal lives don't always divide along traditional lines. For example, Douglas loves to grocery shop. I prefer to handle our finances. Most other things we share somewhat equally without talking much about it. Until lately.
Over the past year that we've been preparing our boat to go cruising, Douglas has become far more technically proficient than I, so he's gravitated to being the one in charge of the more mechanical installations and concerns aboard Ithaka. Not normally very domestic, I've had an about-face, and taken over most of our personal matters, such as packing moving boxes, preparing our house to be sold, organizing all our effects and selecting what goes into storage, what should be sold in the yard sale, what would be sold in classified ads, and then making it all happen. To my surprise, I've thoroughly enjoyed this side of the process.
There are no two ways about it; leaving home is traumatic, no matter how exciting the prospects may be for adventure and new experiences. For me, it's helped immeasurably to go through everything we own, quietly by myself, and think about what to do with our collections, photos, paraphernalia, and keepsakes. In that regard, the past few days since I left my job at Cruising World, have been a treasured time.
I've found and reread all the letters Douglas ever wrote to me - an emotionally rich morning that served to soften the edges on any of our hassles as the pressures of this undertaking increase exponentially. From all corners of the house, I've collected boxes, old albums and envelopes full of our family photos and mementos, and reorganized them all into photo albums - a process that really helped to make me feel surrounded by the warmth of my loved ones, and that inspired me to call and write to some people with whom I've not connected for too long. I cleaned out and reorganized all our personal files, twice filling the back of our car with bags and cardboard boxes full of recyclable office paper. Now, all that's left to take aboard Ithaka is one plastic case of important files; another file box will go to our friend Nete, who's looking after our mail and the few bills we'll have left to pay while we're cruising.
We went through all our artwork and furniture, and donated or put in our yard sale all the stuff we no longer loved, plus the stuff that originally may have been a "compromise" buy. If you're married, you especially know what I mean. Maybe Douglas liked it a lot, I didn't but I wanted to be a good sport, so we bought it. Or vice versa. Going cruising has emerged as the most wonderful excuse to get rid of all these things - except of course for Douglas's three-foot fiberglass fish head (he insisted it conveyed with the marriage). The living room is empty now of furniture, and we've begun using it as a staging area for the boat. Everything destined for Ithaka that's been living in our basement all winter is now arranged all over the living room floor - a dramatic reality check in the storage department. We're culling it for the twenty-sixth time, and transferring to the boat only what we think is the essential gear. All this assumes we know what we need on the boat, which we don't, really. At this point, we're just doing our best to speculate.
To get an idea of what kind of storage challenge we have on our
hands, we've arranged all over our living-room floor the gear,
supplies and spares that need to be inventoried and stowed in
Ithaka's lockers and lazarettes.
Saturday was our "Intergalactic Otis Redding Memorial Yard Sale," as Douglas named it in the newspaper ad. All day and long into the night before, our friends, Christian Gollub, Mary Talbot and Linda Butler, had helped us to price-tag the garage-full of plates, linens, furniture, shoes, tchochkies, garden tools, frames, hats, jewelry, you name it. Then Douglas and I hit the sack at midnight, bone weary, only to be awakened by Gracie growling at a parade of Volvos coming up our driveway at 6:13 am. Like it or not, we opened for business. Not being a yard-sale aficionado before this, I wasn't hip to the yard-sale-goer's creedo that marked prices, no matter how low, should only be considered a starting point. So at first I was thrown off guard by brutal negotiation sessions with my fellow yuppies over a silk pillow worth $45 and already marked down to only $2, or a $1 rubber elephant-trunk nose. "Forget it!" I heard Douglas bark at one of the Volvo women who was as relentless as a pit bull in her pursuit of the nose for 25 cents. "I won't sell you this nose at any price!" He put the nose on, as she stomped off in a huff, and wore it for the rest of the day.
We gave Mary, Linda and Christian authority to set prices, and so major deals were going down on our stuff everywhere I turned. As I negotiated with one lovely old lady over a Wedgwood pitcher and some cordial glasses, I almost fainted to hear one of my friends closing a sale on two new fur hats and a box full of my costume jewelry for only $30. But big yard sales are like tidal waves. You can't stop them, you just have to go with them, keep your head above water, and keep repeating to yourself, "It's only stuff. Just get rid of it. It's only stuff."
Somewhere over the course of this material mayhem, we had a pretty good time, I guess. A lot of nice people stopped by to say hello. Some friends brought sustenance. We rigged up the stereo and (until we sold it at around 1:30 for $47.53 - a Douglas deal) we rocked out to some great oldies but goodies. At 4:00, as the buying frenzy wound down, we put the odds and ends that were left onto a tarp at the end of the driveway, along with a sign that said: "FREE! PLEASE TAKE IT!" Douglas tossed the elephant nose onto the pile, we closed the garage door, went inside and crashed. There, I was stunned to catch sight of myself in the one mirror left in the house and see that I hadn't even brushed my hair since getting out of bed that morning.