Monday, April 19, 2010

The Bright Side

Several days ago, we stopped at a drugstore and saw this sign outside, and with all that's going on in our lives, decided it would be a great way to commemorate this one thought:

It Could Be Worse.

So. We've been in limbo, and we've had better days, me and that dashing hunk of 100% man I like to call husband; the two of us just trying to anticipate the next round of natural and relational disasters that continue to rock both the world in general and our own little plot on the social landscape. If these times were being recorded in biblical prose, the text would include many references to the gnashing of teeth, along with snarls, snares, and instances of crying out to the heavens more times than I can count. But there'd be moments of beauty, too-of trusting, of staying the course, of azaleas blooming like crazy, of blowing bubbles in the backyard with the children and thinking that no matter what's around the corner, we've got love to spare. So there.

But we don't get too comfortable in having, good day in about ten, and because it wouldn't be biblical unless there was a good-old-fashioned calamity of some sort, there's this:

Mouse Infestation.

For the past year, we'd been storing all our furniture in one of the outbuildings on our Ohio land; furniture and really everything else-toys, books, appliances, keepsakes...our entire life's worth of stuff. Since coming back south, we've been fortunate enough to have been able to stay with people who had room and beds and hospitality to spare, and for these sorts of people I am grateful beyond measure. We were never without hearth or pillow-but there was still a longing for the day I'd be able to recreate a true home for my family-and I kept that hope-flag flying in my heart, like something barely visible on the horizon. As in, we might be, all four of us, sleeping on two twin beds right now, but someday in the not-too-distant future I could feather my nest with all the things I knew were tucked safely up north-my vintage linens, fabulous sofa, kids' artwork...I must have mentally rearranged my living-room-to-come at least a dozen times. I even downloaded this image for inspiration-thinking I had most of those elements anyway, except maybe not quite that much Leedsware?

So-on my last trip to Ohio, I needed some spring clothes for Winnie, which I knew were with our things in storage.  My dad had mentioned that we might have a "mice issue" out there, and he ordered some traps on eBay (who orders traps on eBay? my dad, that's who) which I assumed we'd bait and strategically place, thus mitigating any damage. Why yes, of course I believed extermination works retroactively.  Don't you? Well, think of me as the Simon Cowell of the vermin industry: it doesn't. By the time you can smell them, they've already wreaked their tiny little mouse-havoc. They've moved in, had babies, elected a mayor, and built a highway system. It's true. And by the way, you sing like a cat.

So what was the damage, exactly? Oh, just about everything we own. I'd say 50-75% of the furniture is toast. My sofas were litterboxes, boxes of linens were shredded for nesting, and all but a couple of cookbooks munched. Photos, artwork. It's like a fire, but stinkier. It would almost be a relief to burn it down and start over.

I loved my things. Isn't it sad?  They were, for me, the promise that I'd have a normal life again. I couldn't help but wonder, would I have been even more distraught had I not been living like a gypsy for so many months? Maybe. And what does that say?

The hardest part was not having my husband there to help me sort through it all. My brother-in-law, who is just wonderful, did his part in the heavy-lifting and vacuuming-up-of-mouse-poop department. But only Joshua could get down to business with a brave and hopeful face-and besides, he knows what's worth salvaging, and what is just...stuff. He wasn't there, though, so I put on my Muck boots and some yellow doing-dishes gloves and went to it. It was almost incapacitating. I could only work in 45-minute increments. If you think that sounds morally weak, then riddle me this: how would you feel if you came home to find that a multi-generational family of rodents had built a the world's largest trailer park in your living room? With no indoor plumbling? Did I mention they ate an ENTIRE bag of Starbucks coffee beans? It was basically a Mickey Mouse Crack-House.

So what next? We can buy replacement stuff. We have to pay of course-- because of the following, guess what loss is NOT covered by insurance? Volcanic eruption, terrorist attack, mudslide, sonic boom, mouse infestation.

But we've got love to spare, right? Right. The greater loss would be this-not knowing who we are, or whose we are. And come what may, perspective is scrappier than any mouse, and softer than any pillow.


The Life of Blights said...

Yuck and double yuck. I have had my "moments" with vermin from hell but never the kind of hell described here. I am so sorry! Your last post and this one really resonate with me. My husband and I are on a nomad's path ourselves commencing in a few months. We'll be basement hopping for will be interesting. I may bookmark this post and think... "it could be worse." If you don't mind.

Deborah said...

I'm still heart-broken on your behalf. And I would've gotten in there with the gloves right alongside you (even though it would never be the same as J).

Jaime said...

oh gosh, Allison- I had no idea it was THAT awful. Ugh, ugh! :( I wish we could have helped in some way. So terribly sorry that you've lost so many belongings to this horror- and I use "horror" because I really am NOT fond of mice. Truly! Now I'm even a smaller fan of them!
Thinking of you all with love,

michael moebes, esq. said...

I wonder if the vaccines cover the outliers, like wooden and slate shingles.

lynn (petersen) hults said...

hi allison, i saw your post on FB and am joining you in sadness with your kind of like a new orleans loss, except with greedy, hungry vermin:( we have a lot of stuff in storage right now, but nothing like that. i am so sorry about your beautiful things!...i can just imagine how amazing you can make a house a home! (i would love to come and take a tour of your things when you rebuild, and hear all your stories as to why each item is special. i would love to meet this summer for a fun playdate to catch up if you are game?! we like parks...and possibly i could strap my youngest in some 5 point harness so i could actually have a decent convo. OR better yet, get my hubs to watch the chitlens so i could REALLY catch up with you at some swanky french dessert place! by the way, i can only imagine how chic you must have looked in your boots and yellow gloves:)

kstroess said...

oh, alli. i wish i could invoke some sort of retroactive help. i, too, would have donned some yellow gloves to assist.
a landlord in chicago once told me, when i complained about the mice (again) in our apartment, specifically the ones nesting in my kitchen towels drawer, "its getting cold out-- they need a warm place, too, you know."
words fail to describe.

Other People's Chicken said...

Thank you sweet friends for your kind words...if only we could have ALL donned rubber gloves and cleaned it up together. A good old-fashioned mouse brigade. Really, though-it's going to be all right.I've hired a bald eagle to patrol the storage area, so anything I have left is totally covered. xoxo