Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dead pets, virtual pets

There’s nothing like cleaning out your closets and packing up everything you own to make you feel like you should be on an episode of "Hoarders." For those of you who aren't familiar with it, it’s a reality show on A&E that features people so attached to their junk that they end up practically living in houses made of yard sale leftovers and old pizza boxes.

The Fiance and I caught an episode recently where a woman’s adult kids were literally shoveling piles of trash out of her kitchen that must have been there a while, because they uncovered -- a dead cat. Correction: HALF a dead cat. And when the woman was informed of little decayed Fluffy under her layers of garbage, she was disturbingly nonchalant about it, and also more upset that they had only uncovered half of her dentures set. Scary.

So, after that, we felt a little better about the things
that we uncovered while packing and moving -- like a box of pasta that expired in 2005 (The Fiance and I didn’t even start dating until 2006!). It also made us feel better about the sheer amount of stuff we had (at least eight pick-up truckloads-worth).

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a packrat. I wouldn’t say I’m a hoarder as much as overly sentimental. In preparation for the move back home, my mom and I cleaned out my bedroom closet and uncovered a bunch of childhood relics. Among the discovered items: a shoebox full of notes my friends and I passed in middle school (had to keep for entertaining reading later in life!), a bunch of old stuffed animals, including Cabbage Patch Kids, Pound Puppies and Kitty Kitty Kittens (kept the first two, sadly parted with the latter), and a three-legged My Little Pony (in the trash now!).

But the best thing I found was my Tamagotchi. This circa 1997 digital pocket pet from Japan was a
major source of entertainment for me on the playground, and its theft led to what I remember as a zany sleuthing adventure that culminated in a dramatic last-day-of-school chase and me ratting out a boy to his grandmother. It would have made a good Disney movie.

Being the packrat I am, not only did I keep the Tamagotchi, but its batteries and the little screws that held the batteries in place. I popped the batteries (also 13 years old, mind you!) into the back, the little machine beeped, and a pulsating Yoshi-esque speckled egg appeared on the screen.

Barely unable to contain my excitement, I carried it around in my purse for day, keeping an expectant eye on it and waiting for that little egg to hatch. Afte
r 24 hours…nothing. I couldn’t imagine they’d expected kids to wait 24 hours for the damn thing to hatch, so I Googled “Tamagotchi 1997” and found the official instructions. Jackpot!

I finally got it to hatch, and as the little blob with eyes floated around the screen, the memories flooded back -- carrying it around clipped to my belt loop, hiding it under my desk at school while I played games with it. The excitement didn’t last long, though. The little bugger needed constant feeding and game-playing to keep it happy. When I lost the game, it scowled at me and beeped in displeasure. “I can’t eat dinner now, Mom,” I said, waving away the tacos. “I’ve got to take care of this damn thing.”
I must have had more patience when I was 12.

But at least when the virtual pet goes back in the bottom of the closet, my kids won't be digging up its petrified corpse in 30 years.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Goodbye apartment, hello apart-'rent

Well, it’s official. We’ve moved out all our stuff, paid the carpet cleaner, relinquished our keys and set up our mail forwarding. We’ve officially bid adieu to our apartment, our first home as a couple, and my first home away from home.

Even though I’m happy to be moving on, I feel a tad sentimental about leaving our first love nest. We only spent two years there, but it was a pretty crucial two years. We learned how to live together, how to balance the mundane details of everyday life with making time to keep getting to know each other. I learned how to cook. The Fiance learned that bringing home flowers spontaneously could inspire said cooking. We both learned that neither one of us is a particularly good dancer (but we kind of already knew that). We had some bad times (The Fiance falling down the stairs and breaking his leg), s
ome good times (a surprise proposal), and lots and lots of little moments in between that turned that 80s townhouse into home.

As I surveyed the empty apartment, looking just the way we found it, I remembered the night we first saw it. It was also the night I got pulled over for the first time. I was running late to meet
The Fiance (then The Boyfriend) at the apartment, waiting to turn across traffic, holding the phone with one shoulder while he gave me directions. I decided to cut someone off, and realized too late that someone had lights and a siren.

I always thought I’d cry the first time I got pulled over, or at least have some kind of good story. But as flustered and rushed as I was, all I could manage to do was say, “I know, I’m sorry” as the cop reminded me that I did not have th
e right of way, I was not paying attention and I made his life flash before his eyes. I got off with a warning, though, without any tears or clever stories.

By the time I made it to the apartment, The Fiance had already seen the whole thing and was in love with it. “Let’s take it,” he said as soon as I walked in. Annoyed he’d already decided without me and irritated that I’d broken my spotless six-year driving record, I caved and said yes. Only afterward did the excitement set in. We were moving in together.

It was a different kind of excitement -- bittersweet -- we felt as we left the
apartment for the last time: ready to end that stage of our life and prepare for the next, but sad to say goodbye to our first place. The whole thing called for a couple of celebratory beers and Belgian frites at the local pub. Cheers!