The Wichita manse is on the market now. That hasn’t meant a big lifestyle change so far, except that I’m more diligent about picking up and I have to move this big metal sign in the yard when I need to mow or change the sprinkler. I’ve had five showings in three weeks. When the Realtors say somebody’s coming over, I turn on all the lights and decamp for the gym, or to Target, where I wander the aisles until it’s safe to return. When I get back, there’s always a card on the counter and the faint scent of indifference from whoever it was who wanted to have a look at the place.
Apparently people aren’t buying houses anymore. Perhaps you’ve heard about this. The good news is that we bought much less house than we were told we could afford five years ago, so we’re not yet underwater on the mortgage. The bad news is that if the brunette and I are ever going to live in the same state, we’ll probably have to consider renting the place out.
That’s a disturbing prospect. I’ve been an absentee landlord before, and during those years I learned an important lesson: The promptness of rent payments corresponds directly with the proximity of the landlord. If you live next door, you’ll usually get the check on time. If you live five states away, you may not get it at all. This happens even with carefully screened tenants, good upstanding people who might otherwise have been friends. Just human nature, I guess.
But of course the most disturbing prospect of all is the actual act of moving. This is when you’re confronted by all the crap you’ve thoughtlessly acquired over the years. Most of this stuff you can’t remember coveting, but it’s yours and you have to deal with every single piece of it.
And finally, it’s what a move symbolizes: the end of another era. Mostly in life we’re blissfully unaware of when we’re doing things for the last time, but not on moving day. When you pause in the doorway and look back at a house full of echoes, you can be pretty sure you won’t be back again. You think of the holidays, the parties, the conversations and crises, all of the company who won’t be back either. You recall the circumstances of every stain on the carpet, which was really way too light for a couple who enjoys red wine. Some pretty good years, all in all, now reduced to a single moment. And then you close the door.