Saturday, November 28, 2009


Well, almost.  I am still looking for a good tenant to rent my mother's house in New Orleans, but aside from that, in the past two months the following things have been accomplished:

Mom was discharged from the physical therapy hospital, decided to move to Baton Rouge to be closer to us, and went back to her home for a few weeks to begin packing.  Dave and I went to Memphis for a follow-up visit with his oncologist, and he came away with a very optimistic report.  We returned to Baton Rouge, and I began the process of packing my mother's things, taking Mom apartment hunting in Baton Rouge, signing leases, renting a moving-and-storage unit, boarding Mom's two cats at her vet's until after the move was complete, arranging to move the fully packed storage unit to Baton Rouge, getting Mom unpacked, and moving the kitties into their new home.  There was also a whole separate trip with a friend who owns a truck with a utility trailer to get all of Mom's potted plants. Then, finally, Mom got to meet her new neighbors in the little retirement community she chose to move into.  

All this was followed by getting Mom's house in "rentable" condition.  The major part of this last was easy, as the house had been updated, repaired and repainted after Hurricane Katrina.  

The more difficult part of getting a house into "rentable" condition is depersonalizing it.   Should we leave the white curtains in the spare bedroom or not?  They go with the room nicely, and there's no place for them in Mom's one-bedroom apartment.  Will the new tenants want the organizer shelf and the coathanger rack in the utility room?  Will they think it's as clever and useful as we did, or would they prefer that space to be empty?  Should we repaint the bedrooms to a more neutral color?  Will they use the toiletry shelves on the bathroom wall, or will they think of it as clutter?  Should I replace the functional and quaint (but slightly tricky) antique doorknobs in the bedrooms?  Are they charming or annoying?

Mom's house has never been rented out before.  It was built almost 100 years ago and three generations of our family have lived there.  It has always been full of people, pets, furniture, books, granny's china, and Heaven knows what, all in a flurry of the usual family clutter and treasures.  It hasn't been completely empty in almost a century.  Even during the post-Katrina repairs, we only moved most of Mom's belongings into the storage unit parked in the front yard, and shuffled the essential furniture around as needed to allow for rewiring, plaster repair, painting, and so forth.

Right now, the house is completely empty, sparkling clean everywhere, waxed and polished.  All of the little holes where Mom's pictures were hung have been puttied and touched up with paint, and all the little nicks  and scratches that seem quaint to a family have been smoothed, sanded and painted: the corner of a closet door where a long-ago puppy decided to teethe when no one was looking ... the worn spot on the bathroom doorframe where the door, which was slightly out of true, rubbed against the frame ... the tiny notches in the kitchen doorframe to keep track of how much I'd grown between school years.  All of those things had to be covered, painted, and polished out of existence.

It looks strange, and kind of sad, all empty and shiny like that, with the sun streaming in through the windows.  It looks much bigger than it really is, and my feet echo when I walk across the wooden floors.  

I realize that the house is waiting: waiting for new people to place their beds and couches in the rooms, for new dogs to run in the yard, for new people to hang pictures and cook meals, for a new cat to snooze on the front porch.  

I hope one of them is a knitter.


Inmates in the Asylum since July 27, 2006: