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In My Next Life: Finding Stuff in the New World

Posted By Karen Young On November 11, 2009 @ 12:38 am In Features,In My Next Life,spotlight | 7 Comments

davidnicholsBY DAVID NICHOLS

I haven’t been able to find anything since 2006.  That’s when I moved from Glendale to Studio City and started living what’s turned out to be my next life. 

Granted, I didn’t always know where things were in my old house either.  After fifteen years I still invariably tried to turn on the kitchen light by reaching for a spot where there had never been a switch (but there should’ve been).  And certainly a person expects to go through a period of getting settled in and organized after a move.  But we’re talking nearly four years.  A grown man really ought to be able to figure out where the dishtowels are in less time than it takes to get through high school.  But it’s not entirely my fault.

Shortly after I migrated to this neighborhood, My Beautiful Grown Daughter came home from college and moved in with me.  She brought back half a basement full of boxes, bursting at the seams with books and CDs.  One would’ve thought that would be enough to keep her occupied.  One would’ve been wrong.  A typical conversation during those months went like this:

“Have you seen my Paul Simon box set?  It’s not on the shelf.”

“Oh, I borrowed it to download.”

“OK.  Is it in your room?”

“Probably.  But I don’t know where.  Also I loaned your copy of Slaughterhouse Five to Sasha.  I can’t believe she’s never read it.”

“Don’t you have your own copy?”

“Yeah, but it’s in the basement somewhere.  I figured I’d never find it.”

I’m thrilled my child inherited my tastes in music and literature.  I just wish she’d also inherited my tendency to keep my hands off other people’s stuff.

The situation escalated when she got her own apartment and was preparing to set up housekeeping.  “Do you mind if I go through the kitchen and take a few things?” she asked.  Now, I would never use a word like “looter” in connection with my own flesh and blood.  I’ll only say that when she was finished “taking a few things,” my kitchen looked like a Fry’s Electronics store after the Rodney King unpleasantness.  Once again I couldn’t find anything, but the reason was simple.  There was almost nothing left to find.

Then N. and The Boy arrived, bringing their own boxes and their own ideas about storage.  Turns out the few meager bits of cookware I had left were organized completely incorrectly.  “Honey, why do you keep the cups in a separate cabinet from the glasses?”  I might’ve said it was an attempt to fill up space that used to be occupied by a lot of nice, expensive chafing dishes and loaf pans, but I didn’t think that fast.  Instead I said something along the lines of “Uhhh….” 

Needless to say,  the cups, which I admit are used for drinking, quickly took up residence next to the glasses, which, yes, are also used for drinking.  And the bowls, which used to live next to the cups, moved in with the plates, meaning all the china is now conveniently located side by side.  It makes perfect, logical sense. 

Nevertheless I still find myself opening at least four different cabinets every morning in the course of trying to pour a glass of orange juice and throw some toast on a saucer.  That is, when I can find the bread.  Some people apparently take those expiration dates on the wrapper seriously.  N. is one of them.

Once breakfast has somehow been accomplished, the challenge of getting dressed remains.  My Loyal Housekeeper of Twenty Years does the laundry once a week and puts it away.  However, she’s still learning who wears what in our newly assembled household, so there’s no telling whose clothes will wind up where.  The Boy is rapidly approaching my size (which isn’t that hard to approach, frankly).  So his cool t-shirts frequently make their way into my drawer.  Meanwhile, he’s forced to endure the humiliation of finding a pair of my Nordstrom’s dress slacks next to his board shorts.  And N.’s closet is the default destination for all shoes, no matter whom they belong to.  If we’re not diligent, The Boy could go off to school dressed like a middle-aged writer and I could show up at my office looking like a pre-teen skateboarder.  And poor N. could be stuck walking to Trader Joe’s in a pair of my oversized high-tops like some curvaceous clown.

It’s bad enough not knowing where things are in the house.  But now I can’t find half my yard either.  Gardening is one of N.’s passions and she pursues it with the same whole-hearted determination she brings to everything she loves.  Which means things get moved around a lot.  Not being a gardener myself, I was under the impression that once something was in the ground it was a permanent part of the landscape and you could count on it being there from one day to the next.  Apparently that’s not the case.  N. has an artist’s eye for which plants belong together and how they should be arranged.  Consequently, the arrival of a new species or the departure of an old one usually necessitates a re-working of the previous design.  Add to this the fact that our back garden gets full sun all summer and is in the shade all winter — the stage is set for an agricultural square dance that has various ferns, grasses, and conifers do-see-doeing around each other non-stop.  We have one Japanese maple that’s traveled more in the last six months than Hillary Clinton.  Until now I never realized it was possible for a tree to look confused.

And I’m afraid the whole situation’s about to get worse.  Recently N. and My Loyal Housekeeper of Twenty Years came to the conclusion that the exterior of our house needs to be a lighter, happier color.  As I’ve noted before, once the two of them agree on a course of action, it’s a done deal.  So we’re currently in the middle of re-painting.  They say home is where the heart is.  So I suppose as long as I know where N. and The Boy and My Beautiful Grown Daughter are,  I’ll be able to find my way home.  But I have a sinking feeling that once this paint job’s finished I may not be able to find my house.  All I know is it’s the one with the Japanese maple in front.  Or not.

David Nichols is a TV writer and producer who has worked on such shows as “Caroline In The City”, “Grace Under Fire”, and “Evening Shade.” Having mastered The Demented Swan, he is now looking for other wild-life to imitate in the shower.  He’s pretty sure he lives in Studio City.

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