Write of Passage

Willett's Baltimore Transitions / Expressions

Willett .

Willett .
Baltimore, Maryland,
June 15
Write of Passage, Inc.
Willett Thomas is the President of Write of Passage, Inc., a 501(C)(3) communications, training, and publishing organization formed in 2010 to assist underserved artists and writers. She is also a freelance writer, writing in and about Baltimore. She recently relocated to the neighborhood of Greenmount, where the exterior shots of the HBO series, The Wire were filmed. She's pleased to report any rumored resemblances to the television series are greatly exaggerated. *** Like us at Facebook ;-) http://www.facebook.com/WriteofPassage

Editor’s Pick
JULY 14, 2010 7:59AM

I Said Hoard, Not Whore

Rate: 40 Flag

The move should have taken 4 to 6 hours. This is what the moving company rep estimated. Twenty-four hours later, after the first box had been placed on the moving van, I was finally unsettled in my new home and completely exhausted though I hadn’t lifted even a lamp shade. My relocation from D.C. to Baltimore spanned fifty miles, and was only a forty-five minute drive on most days.

I was tired and not quite myself.  I was hungry, too.  I could have made something out of the dry goods I had hurriedly packed, but the idea of foraging for gluten free pasta, lentils, or chicken bouillon cubes in my current state made me want to curl up in the fetal position. The move having been a sudden one, left me unfamiliar with my new neighborhood, and I was too exhausted to wander around in order to locate the nearest: chicken, sandwich, pizza, or Chinese carryout. So, tired, not quite myself, and hungry, I decided to do the one thing I wouldn’t dare do under any other circumstances: I called my mother in Florida.

I plopped down on new wood floors installed only hours before. Floors hurriedly installed to replace the laminate that had been selected by the I’m gonna do my best to jack you seller. The laminate, though new, was crazy laminate. So crazy, I remarked to my realtor Oral, “What’s with the floors? That looks like tiger print.” 

“Yeah, and it’s already starting to pop up,” he laughed. This was regrettable because I already knew this was the house, and I knew that the slap it up, stomp it down “rehab” seller wasn’t about to budge on the price.  Still, I couldn’t abide moving to a new city, knowing not one soul, with tiger print floors, so I had to find someone quick, fast and in a hurry to properly install actual wood floors, at my expense. The installers, having got a late start, were not finished when the moving van arrived, which is how my stuff ended up spending the night on lock down in the Mayflower moving van.

Even as the installers moved quickly to pack up and make way for the movers, I now had to come to terms with a reality that I had barely let cross my mind: What if my old life doesn’t fit my new life? Before the move, I didn’t have time to give this much thought. I was too busy trying to stay one step ahead of the sheriff and the promised foreclosure of my home, and was all but paralyzed at the thought of selling my DC home and finding a new place to live within thirty days. The question of whether my big furniture would fit my new Baltimore home was low on my “bucket list” of things needing to be attended to in order for me to make a clean break and have a fresh start. 

The grumbling began before the first stick of furniture came off the van. A collective low grunt, the grousing freely emitted by those who literally hold your life in their calloused hands; grousing you're pretty sure they mean for you to hear: “We’ll be lucky to get half this shit in that house. 

So, in order to put an end to all the “It’s just not going to happen, ma’am, but we can take that armoire, sofa, entertainment center, box spring, etc, etc, etc, off your hands. I mean, you seem like a nice lady, so as a favor to you, we can help you out, haul it away, no charge to you -- if you want,” I had to suck it in, forget about the newly painted walls and spackled ceilings, and make it clear to my motley band of grousers that they were to, “Just shove it in!  ‘Cause, we’re getting all, every bit of my shit it in the house.” And, in an effort to stay true to their motto of providing superior customer service, they did shove it. I’ve got the dinged and thoroughly messed up walls and ceilings to prove it.

So, while alternating between being dazed by dinged walls, but bedazzled with my new non-tiger print floors, I dialed my mother to clue her in on the last twenty-four hours.

Me:  I think I might be what some people consider a hoarder.

Her silent, then: Well, why in the world would you say something like that about yourself? 

Me:  Sometimes, you just have to look at your life, and be truthful about what you see.

Her silent, then:  Well, it’s one thing to say this to me, but I certainly hope you’re not running around saying this to anyone else.

Me: Why not?  I’m not saying I’m like the people on those reality shows; I’m not like that.

Her:  They have TV shows?

Me: Yeah, ma.  You get cable.  You’ve seen them.

Her:  I certainly have not.  I have cable, but my package doesn’t have any whore reality shows.

Now, after having reviewed this brief interchange, I’m forced to decide whether to inform her that I, her oldest daughter, did not just confess to being a whore. Then, for sure, moving on to become highly indignant that she, my mother, would actually think I was saying this thing about myself, and with her having not asked for a bit of clarification. Or, I could simply for the sake of my tiredness, my being out of sorts, my hunger, our continued mother/daughter relationship, UPS her.  Because she is my mother, out of respect, I decided to UPS the whole situation and cut her some slack.

“What was that?  Hold on, a minute, ma. Oh, let me call you back. It’s UPS.  I’ve got to go.”

UPSing, probably wouldn’t work on the average mother.  But with my mother being hyperactive, the ultimate type “A”, overachieving senior, and a Mormon, I knew the likelihood of her remembering or wanting to revisit a conversation where her daughter admits to being a whore was doubtful.

But if we had continued our conversation, after my clarification of my non-whore status, I would have concluded that though not a hoarder, I am an avowed collector.  That, if it were up to me, I’d still have first bowed lock of hair, first baby tooth and rattle, along with all my report and birthday cards from those early years.  But it wasn’t up to me.  That was a decision belonging to my nomadic mother, who lives to be unencumbered.

Even so, as I sat in my small house, surrounded by my big furniture, I was overcome by what my granddaddy would have called the willies. These willies have been with me awhile now. Even before the threat of foreclosure; I had this closed in feeling, one so tight at times I’m barely taking breaths. I remember feeling this way right after finishing a temp assignment at the Smithsonian on 9/11.  Before 911, I was satisfied to walk out of my house and look sharp: shoes, clothes, hair, all the components necessary for living a contented consumption-based life. I was happy to have made a home that when people entered they nodded, saying, “Yeah, I see it. This is so you.”  I just wanted to nest and be safe. Now, the voice in my head just wants to know, “God, why did I think I needed to have that?  Why can’t I make any of this work? And, of course, how will I ever make things right again?” 

Nothing from my past life fits in Baltimore. It’s as if everything that suited my DC life (now stuffed inside my new house) – those ghosts of my past life – only remain to remind me that things really do need to change. 

And, I am changing. I know this. I can feel it. Perhaps, I’m just turning into my nomadic mother, though I hope not. Unlike my mother, I like those tokens, keepsakes that tug at my heart and stir my memories.  I like having all my touchstones close at hand and would miss them if I did not have them. Perhaps, with all that’s happened over the last couple years: sickness, threat of foreclosure, and underemployment, I’m merely morphing into my better self. I hope so.


©2010 Willett Thomas

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Great piece - hope you start to feel more settled soon. And its totally OK to be a whore...I mean, hoarder. Only you can decide what makes your house feel like a home.
I'm laughing so hard I'm crying. You are too funny.
Good thoughts. And nothing a matter with keel junk. We keep our kewl junk in a book shelf that's a piece of junk. I have a feeling that you will kick life in the teeth.
'Touchstones close at hand'. Perfection and a gorgeous line. r.
My mother was a hoarder. I have learned not to tell that to people when I've had a lot to drink.
I just love this. _r
I love your Mom's reaction! Mine would still be yelling. Great Piece!
It's the morphing. And you will come to peace with the "evolution," because you have to, and because you can. Having been through a few forced moves myself, I can relate to the surreal feeling of old life not fitting new life. Also, I really love the concept of "UPS-ing" your mother!
I told my mum once that I wanted a quesadilla. She thought I wanted a case of beer. She was stunned silent for over an hour before she finally suggested I start with a six-pack. Oh, man, my siblings still laugh about that one.

Excellent writing, and I, too, hope everything works out well for you in Baltimore.
@wakingupslowly -- It sounds like we have like thinking mothers. Start with a six pack, that is funny.
@all -- I don't know who writes the EP cover summaries, but they're hilarious. Reading the one for this post, I would swear I was reading the Enquirer. Funny.
such a well deserved EP! I remember buying my daughter's boyfriend some motorcycle gloves. "Oh he said they were tight!" (do they still use that word?) I asked her, "Oh did I get the wrong size?"
First, I just want to know what cable package your mom gets that doesn't include 'whore reality shows." That cracks me up. It reminds me of my grandmother who loved to read all the popular current books but was very, very careful to turn the pages and skip past the "nasty sex scenes."

Second, I totally identify with the conflict between the desire/need to hang onto those physical touchstones of the past life while making room for the new life. I think that one day you just look around and realize that it's all just "stuff"...
I love it! This piece has it all, with plenty of humor to soften the poignant edges. Best of luck in your new home.
I think this is one of those blessings in disguise that Churchill called "well disguised". I'm in a house that two years ago was a fantastic idea! (sure it was . . .) and now I am wondering the same: why did I think I needed this? It isn't "so me" - it's a fixer and a really needy one at that. But it has no garage, and no real storage, and that meant donate or drown in stuff. I'm more like your mom in that way, but there are still some things I would sorely miss if they were gone.

But that wake up call - hey I have too much stuff! - even if you still can't give it up, you can forgive yourself for needing the comfort of its presence. Take your time, sit with it, with each piece of furniture that makes it difficult to navigate through the house and if it doesn't speak to you, consider whether someone else might make use of it.

One thing at a time. It's okay if you need to keep it. Only you can decide that.
ONe neat piece adn rated with hugs
Really enjoyed this and can relate in several directions.....good luck in your new place : )
Signed, Nomadic Collector --- should I just start a therapy fund now for the kids?
This made me laugh. Best wishes in your new home.
I believe you are...becoming your better self (to clarify)
I am stifling laughter at my desk at work. VERY funny post. I loved it and thanks for brightening my day!! thanks too for the UPS trick; needless to say, I've got a few relatives to try it on.
Priceless! I could so see my mom having this conversation with my oldest sister. I laughed until tears came.

After my divorce, I moved from 2500 sq ft home to a 12 x 11 rented room. Seemed like a nightmare at the time, but in retrospect was the start of a much better life. Good luck in your new abode.
Sign up with Hoarders Without Borders.
Congrats on EP. The H-word frightens me...while doing some deep digging for something I wrote years ago last week, I found stacks of postcards and love letters dating back to the late 80s and early 90s.
i so feel for you here. you tell a difficult story with grace and humor. best of luck with the new place. hope things get better for you soon.
Funny. Crisp. Sharp. Intelligent. And poignant. ( I call it "the phone face off" when the other line rings. Everyone wants to know if they win). Great post!
Love the story! My husband learned how it is all too easy for that word to be heard when it has no business in the conversation after a trip to Lake Powell.

We all managed a blistering sunburn on the first day and when I mentioned to him that I was miserable, he meant to ask "miserable hot, or miserable sore?" Instead it came out (in front of our children), "Miserable whore?"

Years later he still giggles over this when he recalls it in the most mundane places, such as the grocery store, when we happen to be in the checkout line surrounded by little old ladies... he will casually say to me, "Miserable whore." and then break out in a grin. Gotta love the shock factor!
@ Nikolea928 -- I love that one, too. Very funny.

I also love wakingupslowly's : I told my mum once that I wanted a quesadilla. She thought I wanted a case of beer. She was stunned silent for over an hour before she finally suggested I start with a six-pack. Oh, man, my siblings still laugh about that one.
Sorry that you lost your home -- that is hard enough more less a move and too much stuff.

I wish you peace in your new place and a quick evaluation of what fits and what needs to be sold. SOLD that is, not given to movers! (They were something else offering to "haul" it off... after all the moving I have done in my life, I appreciate good moving people when they appear...)
Love this, and I'm going to remember the UPS trick. Rated.
willett, sorry it took me so long to get here. You are one funny person and this story is just priceless. I read it on BB so I couldn't comment earlier and I thought about it all day. You are just so funny and so talented. Really enjoyed this story.
Reminded me of my Grammy telling a cousin how gay she looked, and Grammy was the only person in the room that DID NOT know cousin WAS gay. Grammy meant gay as in happy.
@Bernadine -- I really appreciate the encouraging words. Just yesterday, I was having one of those woe is me days, when I said might as well get to writing. I'm amazed at how you're able to produce so many great, funny posts, back to back. You're an inspiration.
A wonderful read. It's a gift to be able to find humor and humanity in any situation. Rated, by a fellow hoard-er.
LOL! Oh my. I love it when my mother has her moments of misunderstanding what I say. I am not couth or brilliant enough to think of UPS. I just laugh and continue to laugh and let her ask me what's so funny.

I can thoroughly relate to the "moving" situation of course. Not knowing who what when where or how is unnerving. And, I admit, I cry each time the moving truck leaves and old house, and gets to a new one for that reason (although I will laugh BEFORE I cry with this home that I am in). It will fall into place eventually. Give it time. R!
Well told! That conversation with your mom... too much!
Great writing. Thoughtful and funny. I like new beginnings, scary but full of promise.
Very funny!!! My mother is a hoarder which inspired me to become the opposite. Nothing is safe in my house, it is all so close to getting thrown away.
Your mom is too funny!
Good luck to you in Baltimore; those stupid hoarder shows are making all of us with too many books, dogs, whatever, feel like hoarders.