I’ve been absent for a while (again). Normally it’s just because I get busy or I don’t have much to talk about. This time, though, there was a legitimate reason. Because this happened:
Yep, we moved! I was offered a job as an assistant art director with a marketing firm here in June, and I accepted. On July 15, we loaded everything we owned into a U-Haul and Jimmy’s parents’ truck. Of course, that was preceded by a few horrible weeks of going through all our stuff, making endless Goodwill runs and Craigslist posts, packaging all my paintings/prints/ceramics in a zillion layers of newsprint and foam, and trying to comfort my completely freaked-out dog. At the last minute, on impulse, I dug up the herb garden I’d planted back in April, carefully putting my overgrown basil and dill and all their friends into pots and buckling them into the backseat of my car. (It still smells awesome in there.)
When we arrived in Iowa, our fantastic friend Sadye (often seen in the comments around these parts) and her excellent boyfriend, plus Jimmy’s parents and sister, helped us assembly-line everything into the house. I’d been charmed by the house from the moment I first saw it on Craigslist, and had found it no less charming when we went to see it in person. Because Jimmy and I had argued a bit over which house to choose when we first moved to Columbia, this time I came prepared—I made a spreadsheet with all kinds of columns like “Walk Score,” “Luna Score” (going by yard-or-no-yard, proximity to parks, other dogs in neighborhood, and layout of house for ball-throwing), and the most important, “Kate Rating/Jimmy Rating.” As we left each house, I had Jimmy give me his gut impression, on a scale of 1 to 10. There were a few close contenders, but ultimately both Jimmy and I gave this house the highest score, and so we signed the lease just a few days later. It’s super cute—the neighborhood is old and covered in big, shady trees, and the house itself is a sweet little brick thing. I say “little,” but to us it feels huge—three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room, a basement, and a fenced-in backyard! I’ll have tons of pictures later, but I want to do posts for each of the rooms as I put them together.
It’s funny, though, how you don’t notice things when you’re hunting, and then they become glaring when you move in. Like the dozens of spots where paint badly needed to be touched up all around the house, or the yard that hadn’t been touched since the previous tenant moved out in April. When we got there, you could barely see Luna in the yard:
We had to buy a lawnmower (which we found on Craigslist, and made friends with the fun young couple who sold it to us), and then weed out the garden plot, before I could replant my herbs. You can kind of see the corner of the plot in the above photo. When I replanted my herbs, they all took to their new home right away, with the exception of the dill. It had received the same treatment as all the others, but for some reason, it stayed persistently droopy and wilted days after the fact. I tried everything I could think of, but finally accepted that it might’ve just gotten transplant shock, and there was nothing I could do.
We had also been charmed by the arched doorways throughout the house, but—as we learned quickly—the doorways in cute old houses are sometimes lacking a crucial element: height. Our box springs wouldn’t fit up the stairs, no matter what we tried. The archway over them was just too short for a queen-sized bed. And, since both bedrooms with beds were upstairs, this had to happen twice:
It feels very weird and vandal-y to saw a perfectly good box spring in half, but they went back together just fine, and you really can’t tell they were ever cut apart. I’m just glad not to be sleeping on the floor anymore.
After Jimmy’s parents left, my parents came up for a long weekend and helped whip the house into shape. We scrubbed, unpacked, weeded, planted, painted, hung, and a million other things over the most exhausting four days I’ve experienced in a long time. Throughout all that, I was working so hard, I didn’t really think about the fact that we’d moved into a different state, or about Inside Columbia, or about anything beyond Benjamin Moore colors and shade plants. Once my parents left, Jimmy and I sat back on the couch, momentarily stunned by the quiet and the fact that I didn’t start work for another week. What were we going to do with ourselves?
Most people who know me in person will tell you that I’m a crier. It’s an impulse I’ve always hated, but the more I try to fight it, the worse it gets. I cry when I’m frustrated, when I’m angry, when I so much as think about anybody being mean to an animal (oh, damn, there I go again). On my last day at ICM, I prepared for an epic torrent of weeping. I wore waterproof mascara and no foundation, just in case. When work ended, I immediately left for happy hour with my coworkers, and justified my lack of tears with “Oh, you’re going out with them, so it’ll probably happen after.” When happy hour ended and I went home, I took off my un-smudged mascara, confused at why I hadn’t broken down all day. I was even more confused when I drove away from Columbia with totally dry eyes. I’d cried like a baby when I left Kirksville, and I’d been dying to get out of that town; how could it be that I was leaving a place I genuinely loved, and nothing?
Finding ourselves more or less alone, with no more agenda, no happy hours scheduled or Netflix to distract us, I finally made up for all the panicking I hadn’t done when we’d left Columbia. How was it that we’d packed up and left the place we’d called home for five years in just a matter of weeks? What if I’d made a horrible mistake leaving my job, where I had a product I cared about and a lot of close friends? Were we really not going to be able to go out to Trops, Osaka, 44 Stone, or Bamboo Terrace just because we wanted to? What the hell were we going to do without Law & Order for the next two weeks, until our Wi-Fi was finally activated? I had a good little cry on the couch, calling my dog to come and cuddle with me; she responded with a glance over her shoulder as she ran out to frolic in the backyard, as if to say, “Lady, I don’t know what your problem is.”
We pulled ourselves together eventually, and I was a little embarrassed of my sudden outburst. But looking back on it now, I think it was important to take a minute to sort of mourn for Columbia. When you leave a city, you don’t just leave the buildings and the company written on your paycheck; you leave a version of yourself, one who hung out on weekends with this set of people and looked forward to eating at this restaurant, one who took this route to work and knew that this was the most underrated park in town. You accept that you’re going to have to learn new streets, find new restaurants, even (gasp) talk to new people. And it’s okay to take a moment to say goodbye to that previous person, before you can really embrace the new one.
Things started trickling into place. My kind next-door neighbor came over to introduce herself with cake and wine. Another stopped me on the street to compliment Luna and point out where all the good dog parks are. A group of friends, some old and some new, came over to have the first dinner party in our new place, which I cooked in our freshly organized kitchen. A mysterious package arrived in the mail, which turned out to be from my friend Ren and to contain this doormat:
We attended two farmers’ markets, a block party, an exhibition at the art museum, an Italian heritage festival (with vegetarian toasted ravioli!), tapas on a patio with a friend. We had coffee with the lawnmower people. I started my new job. I learned the way to work, and made it without Google Maps on my third try. I mowed a lawn for the first time, and Googled how to compost. And one day, heading out into the freshly-mowed backyard to water the plants, I noticed that my sad little dill plant had put out new flowers.
Hello, Des Moines. We’re happy to be here.