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Movin' On Up?

August 19, 2010 | by Marnie Winston-Macauley

I’m not downsizing. I’m upgrading. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

There’s no doubt about it. Among those of us over 40, the second leading cause of death isn’t cancer, heart disease, or even diabetes. No, my friends.

It’s moving.

The second leading cause of death among the over 40 crowd isn’t cancer. It’s moving.

We recently moved from a house to an apartment. To bring you up to speed, the last time I lived in an apartment, I was 22, wore bell bottoms, and came with no baggage (SJF-Single Jewish Female) except one frayed ottoman, curlers the size of inner tubes, 500 books and one mezuzah – for one room. My “palace” was a studio apartment.

For those who live anywhere but Manhattan, a “studio” is a small but cozy one room “pad,” usually with an “L”-shape somewhere. In Manhattan, where space is $100 an inch, a “studio” was once a “charming” five foot high supply closet – before they renovated. If you see Manhattanites walking sway-backed and ducking, they live in a studio.

The terrific news was, the whole move took two trips in a borrowed Ram Van, and three friends who “owed” me. One to help shlep, one to drive back and forth from Queens (my parents’ house) to Manhattan (Freeedom!), the third to lie prostrate on the street to save the parking space. I decorated quickly. My taste? “Multi-task.” My ottoman was: a bed, guest seating, a dining table, a desk plus desk chair. The effect was “junkyard.” But it was my junkyard – even if I had to step over the bed to the shower head in the kitchen “area.”

Flash-forward a generation. Picture it. Me, in a long shmatte with a college logo I never went to, slathered in “muscle-pain be-gone” ointment.

As for “baggage,” I had enough “stuff” to fill the cargo hold of the QE2. The contents of four houses, including three incomplete sets of dishes, five non-matching sets of silverware, two dozen sheets that fit nothing, one working computer with assorted parts from six others, 1,000 articles, 100,000 pieces of paper (and gum wrappers) with “must-have” ideas,” 3,000 photos and items of “memorabilia,” and 5,000 books. Oh, and the contents of five medicine cabinets filled with Ace bandages, Gingko Biloba, and a dazzling array of chalky pink liquids.

All I had to do was fit this stuff into an apartment less than ½ the size of my house. What to get rid of? Trust me. In addition to a major cause of death, moving is the primary reason for family dissolution.

We dug in. A process that caused my inner ears to explode and my husband to lose feeling in both his legs. “We have to be ruthless,” said my husband, who has a filing cabinet for matchbook covers.

Hmmm. If we took only the good furniture (four pieces) and kept it to a hundred cartons by eliminating half the books and papers (ten thousand), we could fit it all in, providing we didn’t plan to use a hallway.

Day one was a breeze. I threw out six huge baggies of greasy Tupperware.

Day 12. My arm was buried in a dish carton marked “FRAGILE,” into which I was tossing a 1983 World Almanac! The same carton my husband wanted to use for his 12 City College mugs. “You touch this and I’ll break your mugs!” I said, clutching the tattered pages to my chest.

We glared. Impasse.

Forty-eight hours to moving day. I was in the same shmatte, humming Abba Dabba Honeymoon while making concentric circles in the dust as my husband threw anything that wasn’t radioactive or half-eaten into anything with a lid. He railed for me to help.

I couldn’t hear him. My ears closed up ten days ago at about the same time his eyelids developed an astounding flutter.

The moving men arrived. They weighed our boxes. We were told their original estimate could be off by five per cent. Ours was off by 3,000 pounds. Did we want to eliminate something?

We volunteered each other.

Somehow, we moved!

“Welcome to your new apartment,” said the building manager, as the moving men, plus three of my son’s friends who were bouncers in a former life, tried to fit a five foot, 500 pound piano in a 4-foot service elevator.

With the exception of a few mishaps involving trusses, torn ligaments, and weird fractures that are only found in elephant hunters in Borneo, our stuff “fit!” Sort of.

We looked around. Then at each other. “Where’s the phone?” I asked my husband. “I saw it ... in the boxes with the soy sauce packets. Maybe.” Oyyyyy.

“The sofa!” I shrieked. Now, this sofa had been a bone of contention. It was the one piece I bought retail. Real simulated leather. I loved that sofa! My son loved that sofa! For days, he argued. “It won’t FIT in your place! I should have it!” The logic was flawless – except for the fact that he was (thankfully) moving in with a friend whose digs were the size of a peanut can. Now, the “subject” in question, was lodged (OK, stuck), halfway between the bathroom and kitchen. “Told you so!” he smirked.

“Enough!” I said. “Coffee break!”

Without having taken a good look at my new digs, hidden by massive cartons and sofas, I ran out.

For decades, I’d just open a door, and Boom! The great outdoors. Now, I had to find the great outdoors. First, the elevator. “F,” “LL,” “W,” “P,” “1"? But where is, “‘OUT?!” I frantically pushed “1" and met a nice lady who ran an aviary – in 1B. She led me to the lobby, and asked about my key. So that’s what that thing was! The manager had hurriedly given me a thingamabob when I moved in. I’d stared at the plastic rectangle like E.T. studying a cellular, and wondered if it was some kind of Southwestern decoration.

I managed to open three doors. The fourth? Bupkes. Finally, the 90-year-old doorman gave me instructions. “Push it, ma’am.”

From the 7-eleven across the street, I finally looked at “my” building and imagined the marvelous possibilities. It’s amazing what a giant mochacino and a little distance can do.

Renewed, I dialed the first “HELP!!” service in the book. An hour later, “he” arrived. Don. An angel in a shmutz-stained shirt with a hammer, saying “no big deal” when I pointed to the sofa – in the bathroom!

“No big deal” – the sweetest words I’d ever heard.

And so Don entered our orbit. Things are now being unpacked, filed, hung, and, as I type this, painted.

I chose rose for the living room. Don thinks yellow is perfect for the halls. But we agree a platform for the piano would be such a quirky “design element.”

The other day the fridge spewed out strange stuff. I called “downstairs” and boom! A “Larry” fixed it, 1, 2, 3. I started imagining a life where things like plumbing --actually work. Had I been nuts all these years? Us? “Us” who think needle nose plyers is a male hygiene product in a house?

Then, we moved a carton, and I saw it. A light switch! To a view! From my balcony there it was, the Vegas landscape, from the towering hotels to the majestic Red Rock mountains!

My husband is now soaking his foot in the communal hot tub. His eyelids are down to two flutters a minute. We just finished painting the living room.

I love my living room.

I’m about to bring fruit to the terrace. And I’m smiling.

I love my terrace.

I love the precious stuff that has traveled with me, chronicling this hooty adventure.

I love my apartment.

Sure, sometimes I still get off on strange floors.

But hey, isn’t that true of everything in a life?

The way I figure, even if you get a little lost, it’s just one more journey to embrace.

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