Started 29 June and finished 1 July.

I always underestimate how much time it takes to “unpack” from traveling. There is the physical unpacking — the last vacation wash was folded and drawer-ed yesterday, books, toys and nonpermanent items in the toiletry pouch were homed on Thursday. There is the catching up on sleep — can one every really “catch up”? — made acute by the unlocking the door to home just after 3 in the morning. And then, there is the other unpacking which in our house means establishing a new routine and re-establishing the discipline necessary to be comfortable together. On that point, we’ve stumbled.

Julia woke up on Wednesday and seemed to have lost the power of hearing where I am concerned. I needed to ask for anything, including joining me at the dinner table, three, four or five times. Considering that I was in no way well rested, my response was not always compassionate and enlightened. Julia seemed centered on her iPad and on the Harry Potter Lego game that one of her caregivers had put on as an indulgence. I don’t think the game has any intrinsic value — I tend to look for something, at least logic and problem solving in her games — and regardless of the value, it became an obsession during traveling. I took away the iPad for the remainder of the day which is our usual consequence for not listening. Julia got mad and was mean to me. I took it away for another day. She continued mean behavior and disregarded any of my directions and soon we were up to a two-week iPad furlough. It was then that I realized that the deprivation was opportunity. Julia needed iPad separation — during any travel, I let her spend much more time on the iPad than usual and the only way to change the habit no matter how short a time it took to establish is cold turkey withdrawal of the machine.

And so, we are in our fourth day iPad-free and it is almost lovely. Julia is drawing more, reading more and knitting more. She reaches for her Rapunzel doll or her dragon instead of the machine. She decided to do some sewing on her Rapunzel doll’s clothes. I don’t remember writing about her interest in sewing. A few months ago, Julia decided to mend her socks. I offered very brief instructions — she wanted no more — and provided needles and thread in a sewing box. Since that time, she had mended holes in socks and sewed up seams in shirts. She wants no advice from me and I have no problem letting her explore this on her own. There was a small tear in Rapunzel’s dress which she repaired and then she made the hem of the dress more secure. Again, I offered to show her a few things about sewing and offer was refused. Perhaps some material and a good pair scissors will appear near the sewing box.

One of the tasks I had not gotten to this spring wa s to finish the basement cleaning begun two years ago. I’ve worked hard on it and I’ve worked casually. Since the beginning of this year, however, I’ve put far too many things in the basement which should be on their way to be thrown away or recycled. Thus, the need for some plan to get rid of or store what is piled in the middle of the floor. A portion of that pile consists of old computer parts — 2 CPU’s — does anyone know what a CPU is? — two printers, monitors, 4 keyboards and numerous speakers. David and I were early computer buyers and traded up at appropriate intervals; however, in the last few years I spent no time in front of my little flat screen console and after Julia got her iPad, there was no reason for her to be on it either. When we first moved to Madison, we had two stand alone computer set ups — David’s upstairs in the third bedroom and the family computer, or my computer, in the playroom. I disassembled David’s computer when the floors were to be sanded and never put it back and one of this year’s tasks was to clean up the CPUs and get rid of the equipment. I did the clean out in the Spring and then stored put it downstairs. My current resolve is to do something, however small, everyday in the cellar to get it cleaned out and up. On one hand this is kind of silly. Sweeping in front of the dryer or picking up all of the ZhuZhu pet runs to put in one container do little towards an clear-of-unnecessary-junk cellar, but I do get rather overwhelmed when I look at what seems to be a great mess. Even an easy task clears away or organizes a little mess. Eventually . . .

We had some unaccounted for time on Sunday and I looked up places to recycle computers. The almost local Goodwill takes most components and Julia and I loaded up the trunk and went to make the drop off. I had a moment of breathless hesitation. A spot of Grief passing over an otherwise productive activity. One of the fascinating, ugly things about grieving is how unexpected places or people or things trigger the punch in the stomach response. At almost four years since David’s death, it is more of a twinge than a punch but it was something. During that year “of magical thinking” after David died, I imagined that had he walked back into the house at any time, I could have caught him up on our everything in a few minutes. Then it was over dinner. Then suddenly, it would take much longer. I know, I know, he is not coming back but the space between us, the time, the articles of living the way we always lived change, morph, grow into such differences as not to be recognized.

Yes, we were early computer owners but David was very late to the laptop world. He liked sitting at a desk and so he found no need to move on to what was portable. I bought him his first notebook the Christmas before he died. I had not thought as carefully as it might seem but it was a good gift. He had plenty of hospital time, beginning that January, and portable began to make sense even to him. By the beginning of 2010, I was ready to replace my 4 or 5 year old Dell laptop. I bought my MacBook days before the heart transplant and spend the days of the hospital vigil learning to use this machine. I remember wishing that I had waited because taking in anything new seemed impossible at that time but my need to constantly tap on keys probably pushed me into efficient use sooner than had the time been ordinary.

So, now there are no stand alone computers in my house. I have my laptop, Julia has her iPad. I am looking forward to getting an iPad full size or mini in the next year to travel with. We also don’t have a landline phone and no fax machine. My router and modem – also new – are connected to everything via WiFi. My house seems to be less wired than my parents. No landline phone would surprise even my grandmother. And of course, it has been this way for a few months and growing in this direction for a few years but it was the separation of me from the machines in the basement that forced the discovery of this revolution.

And it makes me a little sad. Perhaps because it is July, perhaps just more change, perhaps because, although feeling stronger and full of energy there are still embers of grief ever ready to spring back into a roaring blaze — well, a small camp fire in the woods at this point. And it is the beginning of July.

One thought on “unpacking

  1. Not only do I love your writing always, but I love the way you often describe my life as well as your own. We have the same thing happen with overuse of iPads and cold turkey vacations that remind me how different life can be. Then somehow I let the girls get sucked back into the void of technology. How cool that Julia is teaching herself to sew!

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