We haven’t done a thing to get our Connecticut house ready for an eventual sale. Until yesterday, when I half-heartedly dragged a trash bag into the sun room to begin clearing out some clutter.
I grabbed some old magazines to toss away, paused, and returned them to the table. Then, I left the bag on the coffee table and went into the other room to watch TV.
Actually, two days before I grabbed two hardcover books that I had bought 15 years ago and never read. I was going to take them to work, where we have an informal slush pile of books to give away. Then I put the books back on the shelf. Will I be reading P.D. James during my new life in Yucatán? I really couldn’t say. Will I get to that leather-bound set of Proust? Doubtful. My books have become dust-catchers, mocking me from the shelf that I had actually considered myself a disciplined reader. Once, water damage from a bad gutter installation destroyed a couple dozen of my books. I was quietly relieved that my reading list was shortened.
It’s hard getting a read on what my next life will really be like. When I look around the house, which Paul and I bought together in 1993, I can see how we miscalculate what the next 22 years would be like. Not only did I picture myself spending hours curled up by the fire (we don’t even light fires in any of our fireplaces, it turns out) poring through mind-improving literature, but we must have also imagined ourselves the center of a big social whirl.
The kitchen cabinets are filled with gravy boats, tea services, cappuccino sets, ramekins, cheese platters and salad bowls that have hardly ever been used. Do you know how hard it was 15 or 20 years ago to find a three-tier stand for a “high tea” we hosted for a British neighbor? Or a trifle bowl with which I would honor my own British heritage on Christmas? We had to special order a paella pan I insisted on having because of a show I saw on the Food Network, and I thought we needed something Spanish to honor Paul’s heritage? I’ve made exactly one good batch of paella, which was on my first try. The following attempts were expensive and time-consuming fiascos, and the pan overhung the cooktop just enough to melt its knobs, to boot. I have, no kidding, about 150 cookbooks taking up space in the pantry. Check the copyright dates of them, and you can chart the trajectory of my interest in cookbooks, which declined precipitously around the time I was able to Google a recipe.
The basement has even more monuments to our aborted ambitions of living out the Martha Stewart dream. A slow cooker to cook slow, a pressure cooker to cook fast, an ice cream maker that we stopped using after we quit dairy desserts, a waffle maker we quit using after we went low carb, a lobster pot that was once the scene of a very gory lobster murder, and even a special carrying case to bring potluck dinners to others’ homes — all piled up against the wall — which seemed much more relevant when we were part of the local Lutheran church. A second refrigerator, now empty, was to take on the overflow from the kitchen back when I was getting frozen food on a mail-order plan that we quit. I have two separate gadgets for making mashed potatoes (a ricer and a mill) each recommended from different magazines, which I used to follow closely as to have the creamiest mashed potatoes, along with the crispiest duck, and the merriest holiday parties in Fairfield County.
Connecticut social life is expensive, complicated and exhausting. People are increasingly bored with dinner parties and seem trapped when forced to make conversation around the table. Many actually text their friends rather than talk to their companions. I imagine they’re texting about being trapped at a boring dinner party. I ended up discouraged by the whole thing, and we realized we preferred each others’ company above anyone else’s.
I obviously miscalculated what my future life held in store, and I’m probably doing it again to a large extent as I prepare to live in Mexico. I rebelled when our designer included a microwave in the kitchen, but conceded it might be useful to renters. I’m vowing to be a more “natural” cook. Turns out, I ended up using microwave quite a bit in Mérida. What else do I expect for myself once I move there for good: increased exercise, more artistic output, being more chef-like in the kitchen? These goals have to happen. It’s now or never to become a fit and artistic kitchen-wizard.
Meanwhile, back in Connecticut, our future ex-neighborhood is in for one heck of a tag sale.