Rosemary Clooney had a huge hit with "C'mon A My House" many years ago. I couldn't help but laugh at that memory after I accepted Richard's marriage proposal last Christmas.
Because I'm working and Richard is retired, the most practical plan was for him to move here. And it really helps that he likes Warren and enjoys my friends. But - there are no mergers of old, established institutions without a few wrinkles in the planning department.
Most newlyweds, if they're not already sharing living quarters, move in together immediately following the reception or the honeymoon. Richard and I have been married for five months. We managed to steal a little four day getaway a week after the wedding, and then he went back home to Olean. He has been commuting here every weekend since. We had hoped it wouldn't be that way, but life is what happens to you while you're making plans. Although it has been complicated, we will finally be together, soon.
His moving here is great for me because I don't have to do the garage sale and packing box scene again. I've moved thirteen times in my life, each time more heart-wrenching and backbreaking. I didn't wish that burden on him, but and this was a big but Richard has a house to sell, a house he's lived in for thirty years.
I don't care how lean you keep your household, if you've lived in one place for thirty years you have stuff. The first time I visited Richard's smallish, nice house tucked into the Enchanted Mountains, I was impressed at how neat it was. Oh good, I thought, he's not a packrat. We all know that one of those in a relationship is enough. It was a long time before I saw the basement, which explained immediately why his house was so neat. I never did see inside the two story, two-car garage across the road, but I've been in an auctioneer's warehouse that sounds similar to Richard's description. I swear this man has one of everything. And, if he doesn't have it, I do - unless we have four or five. The very idea of merging these two households made my blood run cold.
One day we were toiling in my garage, re-organizing, trying to create room for a small project. I asked him if he had any clamps or vises. "Sure, what size do you need?" Uh-oh. Over the ensuing months the conversations went like this:
"Do you have a push broom?"
"Sure, what size do you want?"
Another weekend: "Do you have a gas can?"
"One gallon or five?"
Then in the spring: "Do you have a lawnmower?"
"Sure, power, push or ride-on?" Oh no.
I had mentally moved a few of his tools into my garage but soon realized that not only does he have one of everything, he was also mentally moving the tools in. All of them . . . and more.
I guess I thought that he would bring only his clothes, his big flatscreen and one lamp. Oh, and some family pictures . . . maybe a few books . . . and his computers (all three). I thought okay no problem. But each weekend he arrives with another garment bag for the closet and another box or two for the garage. Until the first box arrived I had been savoring a personal victory in the garage: this summer I had opened the last box from my last move eight years ago. Geesh, here we go again. I don't think I have enough lifetime left to complete a pristine garage.
But to be fair to Richard, in order for him to put his house on the market, he really needs to clean it out - now. It's been a thorough, painstaking process. I'm still going through file drawers that I moved here so I understand his need to touch every piece of paper, look at every picture, massage each treasured accolade from work, each card or letter from friends or loved ones. Utility bills from 1993? out. A three-year-old's drawing of Uncle Richard? . . . not so fast.
As he disposes, some Olean churches and shelters are receiving much-needed household items. A few favored relatives have adopted some furniture and the county landfill is growing deeper weekly. While workmen have been in to install new ceiling fans, light fixtures, carpeting and paint, Richard has dug through boxes and files and the depths of his garage for weeks. He's finally getting down to the nitty gritty. Tonight he called again with offers: "Can you use some Pyrex measuring cups?"
"What size?" I asked.
"Three different sizes." Naturally.
"Sure, I can always use those."
"How about another chef's knife and one of those white French casseroles?" This is not getting any easier.
But in a week or two he'll be here, permanently. A few months ago he said he couldn't wait to finally come home. . . and it was here. He felt as if he were leaving home each time he drove back to Olean to visit his house. Our merger is about creating that home to enjoy together in whatever time we will be allowed. Richard brings a loving heart, a caring disposition and a strong helping hand . . . even if it is holding four cutting boards and three corkscrews.
Watch for the yard sale signs in April.