J signed his first-ever lease agreement last night. I wish I’d taken pictures! I explained that he needed to sign papers to agree to live in the new house, and that this explained his rights and obligations as a tenant. I showed him that we ALL would be signing them, and we then went around the table signing our names on the assigned spaces. I explained that our signatures had to be done several times because there was the agreement with the pool rules, the agreement for the cats being with us, the agreement for parking, etc. etc.
This morning we walked down to the office to take the papers and to have J’s ID photocopied so it can go in our collective file. He thought this meant he could have some pieces of chocolate. To his mind, I’m sure, that’s part of agreeing to live here…the candy bowl in the office.
The packing is going along at a nice clip. As we pack, sort and decide, we clean. We’ve made a list of which things require more attention than others, and I’ve made a list of the arrangements I have to make before we move: cable, phone, internet, water, gas, electric, mail. The address for the school records can be changed when they send the registration packet on the first day. The bus picks J up on the same spot as it does now because we’re moving across the street and that doesn’t change.
J’s room will transform on the way to the new house. His bedside table has been refurbished with a lovely coat of paint, and we’ve been looking at new posters for his walls. Katy Perry figures prominently in the short-list of possibles. We’ve also concluded that J would enjoy having a full-length mirror in his room for when he gets dressed in the mornings, and that he would benefit from a better arrangement for his clothes.
The TV room downstairs is nearly fully planned out. The coffee table’s top was painted with chalkboard paint today, and later this week I will have J start assembling the 6-cube units for the base. Next week, with less time to go until we move, we’ll put together the extra 9-cube unit we need for the library, and we’ll start numbering the cubes for when we put the books away in the new house. All these tasks are designed to help ME, of course, but they also are a way to keep J engaged and give him a sense of pride.
Like Hermit Crab in his book, J is going around gathering things that make his home, well, homier…prettier. Together we look at magazines, and then we look at what we have, at what’s on sale, and at what we can do to make do with what we have, but with flair! And we’ll need a lot of flair…the cable bill just went up to nearly $200 a month (with fees and surcharges that are unspecified and mysteriously murky enough to scare me.) Thank goodness J enjoys working on all sorts of projects, and isn’t against going to the thrift store, garage sales and then getting busy with paint.
In between packing boxes and taking down pictures I read to J, or we go for walks. When we take down pictures I explain to him the completely abstract relationship he has to those he lovingly wipes clean before storing in boxes: this is Dada with HIS Dada; these are Dada’s brothers; this is Dada’s mama (a word he uses for anyone’s mama but his own;) this is my great-grandmother with her cat, and so forth… The invisible threads that travel through time and space to build a family are lost on him, but he knows these people are important enough to us to assail the walls with Command Strips to hang their photos.
[By the way, Command Strips are tremendously convenient, but the whole ‘no damage’ thing hinges completely on an exactitude of pulling, force, angle and such that is just beyond my abilities. I’ve had a fairly good rate of success, but I have had to patch quite a few spots…which I find mortifying.]
We got two new books today. J seems to be enjoying our reading time more and more now. The books have found their way from that forgotten shelf in his room to the living room in the basement, and we curl up to look at them, and we point at pictures, and sign as we tell the story. Some J finds so funny that he starts laughing as soon as I open the cover…Froggy books do this to him. Others he listens to intently, and then runs his fingers over the illustrations. Others he goes back to over and over again, and he interjects his own sounds and reactions as we go along.
Today’s titles: Possum Come A-Knockin’ by Nancy Van Laan (illustrated by George Booth) and The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant (illustrated by Stephen Gammell.) Both these books are throwbacks to the days when J and TGG would sit in front of the TV, a bowl of Froot Loops for a snack, and watch Reading Rainbow with Levar Burton. Both books elicited from both (and I mean TODAY) the little conspiratorial smiles of those who remember something tremendously pleasant while trying to act more sophisticated than they feel. TGG mentioned, with a mouth full of chicken and pasta that he was scarfing down before class, that it’s a pity Reading Rainbow has gone the way of the dodo bird. “And the other one too…the one with Kino…Storytime!”
Here I am packing all these books, sitting with my kids (yes, both of them) and making sure they don’t forget books and stories in the middle of all the iPads, iPhones, cable TV, and I ask myself (as I open yet another flyer from Barnes and Noble offering me 10% OFF on any NOOK!!!!) if people bother to read to their kids anymore. I mean: is it relevant to other families???
I have a lot of paperwork to sort through for this move. I have the utilities, the lease, the change of address for the Post Office…and nearly a thousand books (between ours, TGG’s, and J’s) to convey from point A to point B. It would be easier with a NOOK, right? You can still curl up with a NOOK, right? But is it anywhere near as much fun as with an actual book? J and I have boxed up several cubes’ worth of books, and he likes to run his fingers over the spines, place them in the boxes…with almost as much affection as he shows for the family pictures.
The weird thing is that I think he understands the books better than he does the long-gone, or distant people…