I suppose I knew this day would come. The day when I would truly question just what in the world we are doing living in a space the size of some bathrooms. Seriously. What were we thinking? We’ve had some dumb ideas and this one might rank at the top. Holy hell.
I think the reason I got to this place—this dark, claustrophobic place—has to do with the weather. Doesn’t it always in Montana, in winter? It’s been record-making cold outside. Double digits below zero at night. Howling wind. Days spent scurrying from car to the safety of somewhere in doors. This happens for a few days every year but it’s not usually this cold and it doesn’t last this long. Our rancher, the man who’s owned the ranch next to our five acres since probably the beginning of time and who I affectionately call ours, told us once that it always gets cold somewhere around the last week of November/first week of December. He said it one day as he was checking on his cows. He got off of his four-wheeler to talk to his new young neighbors. This was maybe ten years ago and I don’t think he’s been wrong yet.
Even though I’ve lived in Montana a while and even though we’ve heard the truth from a man of the ages, cold like this still shocks me. You can’t escape it so you stay inside. Which is a big, fat problem when you live in 282 square feet. Everyone else who lives with you wants to be inside with you too. Both kids. A husband who just seems so big. Don’t forget the two dogs one of which who weighs eighty pounds.
We also have a random assortment of things that might freeze sitting in various spots on the floor. Our coats, hats, boots and gloves are threatening to block the front door and our mountain of laundry is frozen, yes, frozen outside. The full-size fridge that lives outside has been rendered useless because everything in it is frozen—lettuce, salad dressing, tofu, sweet potatoes—all of it solid as a rock.
There are piles everywhere. Art paper, markers, pillows, shoes. It’s doesn’t matter how many times I clean these up, they somehow reappear. This is not that different from when we lived in a real house except there was space for everyone’s winter-day projects, space for me to escape. I have no space now only something to trip over everywhere I look. My Virgo soul is dying a slow and cluttered death.
There seems to be no end in sight.
I like junk shops, yard sales, thrift stores and craft fairs. When I die I hope to have a window sill or two filled with glass things that someone has to deal with upon my departure from this world. Preferably rose-colored, depression-era glass. But that might just be wishful thinking. Missoula has a number of quality craft fairs and this weekend I had my eye on the mother of them all. As we talked about our day this morning, I told Seth I needed an hour to go.
“Why don’t we all go?” he said.
My eyes widened and my voice went an octave higher.
“Really?” I said. But what I was thinking had more to do with lying in the street because that is what I would have rather done than take my two lovely children and impatient-with-crowds husband to this craft fair.
All I wanted was one hour without you people, I thought. One hour to look at earrings made of old guitar strings and ceramic coffee mugs that look like tin cans. One hour in a place of my choosing without someone whining about being bored, or that there are too many people or asking over and again for something just because it is right in front of them.
Seth read right through my reaction.
“Why don’t we just stay here?” he said. “By the way, you are incredibly cranky.”
I huffed away to do laundry at a friend’s house.
I came back a little while later having thought about what he’d said.
“I am cranky,” I said when I walked in the door. “I need order and quiet and I don’t have either of those here. Crap is everywhere, the kids are bouncing off the walls, Lucille is sick and this place is just so, so small.”
“I know,” he said. “I know.”
I went to the craft fair and pondered copper jewelry, wallets made from bicycle tires and screen prints for a while. I saw old friends. I chatted about the cold. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that the temperature will go up, the sun will come out again and we will one day live in a place that’s a little bigger than 282 square feet.
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